The runaway success of 'The Chosen' is starting to make heads spin in Hollywood

Back in 2020, days before the pandemic lockdowns began, I attended a showing and director's presentation of "The Chosen" in Beverly Hills and was astonished at the success of series, defying Hollywood norms. I wrote about it here.

Since then ... its success has only gotten bigger — exponentially bigger.

At RealClearInvestigations, Maggie MacFarland Phillips delved a little further into the matter and found some interesting details about how the success of this series is turning Hollywood on its head.

"Jesus Revolution" and "The Chosen" are not just Christian dramas but the avant garde in a revolution in faith entertainment. The former – a feel-good movie about hippies who returned to Christ during the 1970s, starring former "Cheers" and "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer – has grossed more than $52 million since its debut just a few weeks ago, making it the most successful film released by studio heavyweight Lionsgate since 2019.

But the instructive parable may be its predecessor, which made Hollywood sit up and take notice. Since its release in 2017, "The Chosen," portraying a charismatic Jesus and his youthful disciples, showed it didn't much need Tinseltown's blessing. Through crowdfunding, its producers have raised millions of dollars from thousands of fans and the show is now in its third season. It is thus a case study in outflanking Mammon – the biblical term for debasing riches – in the modern entertainment tempest.  

The show has been breaking viewership records, screening in theaters and on streaming platforms where more standard fare is “Love is Blind,” billed as a “social experiment where single men and women look for love and get engaged, all before meeting in person” (Netflix) and  “The Boys,” an ultra-violent, hypersexualized riff on superheroes, government corruption, and corporate greed (Amazon Prime). 

Back then, The Chosen had drawn 6.5 million viewings, which at the time, I called that 'whale under the water-sized series that seems to be snowballing in terms of popularity.' 

Umm, yeah.

Today, 'The Chosen' has drawn 450 million viewings that there's a huge audience out there with a ravenous appetite for entertainment that affirms their values. Those are astonishing figures that signal to Hollywood, a miserable and depressed industry that creates few hits these days and which has been criticized by Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss for its wokester production policies, that there's a problem with its model.

Money talks in Hollywood, and back then, they were noticing the $10 million in crowd-funded capital that the series had raised.

Today, the film company raises tens of millions of dollars, in very short periods of time through crowd-funding:

Over Easter weekend, Angel Studios, which helped launch “The Chosen,” released “His Only Son” in theaters. Calling it the “first-ever film to crowdsource its theatrical release,” the studio said it raised $1.235 million in February from 2,000 investors, all in under 100 hours -- just to finance its distribution. To finance the full production of "David," an animated film now in the works in partnership with Angel Studios, almost $61 million has been raised as of this article.

If that's what they raised for the new 'David' production which hasn't even been released yet, imagine what they have raised for 'The Chosen.'
The fundraising has gotten so huge even foundations are involved, RCI notes, but individual donations are very important.
“Philanthropy and causes are important, and people get behind them and they’ll donate money to them,” said Neal Harmon, “But when people get to be part of it, and they actually get to be an owner in it, then they double down in a way that is on an order of magnitude more powerful than the donation model alone.” And on the production end, “the filmmaker’s engagement was way more powerful when they were accountable to their audience rather than to a Hollywood studio.” 

But even amid all the disruption in Christian media investment, there is still a place for foundations. The California-based Come and See Foundation now funds the production costs for “The Chosen,” as well as the translation and distribution to enable the show to be available worldwide, through tax-deductible donations. 

How it happened was pretty ironic:

In part, Angel Studios owes its success to an unlikely catalyst – a lawsuit from frequent conservative bête noire Disney – and an inadvertent opportunity, courtesy of President Barack Obama. 
Streaming service VidAngel -- predecessor of Angel Studios -- faced an existential legal struggle when Disney filed a copyright lawsuit against it in 2016. Founded by the Harmons -- "four brothers and a cousin," as brothers Jeffrey and Neal Harmon described them in a recent phone interview -- VidAngel allowed families to skip over content in popular films and entertainment that they deemed offensive. To defend themselves, the Harmons exploited new possibilities of crowdfunded equity ushered in by Obama's regulation-cutting JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups).

There's bound to be a more interesting backstory to that aspect of the success of the series than that brief summary. Who wouldn't want to know more about how the tiny pipsqueak Jesus production company at the time found a route to mega- mega-success based on a tangle with the detested Disney?

What it all shows is that yes, there is an audience that wants uplifting and high-quality entertainment and is willing to pay for it, no matter what Hollywood claims about the garbage it puts in front of people and no matter how badly box office sales go down as a result. There is an audience, with RCI citing a figure of 41 million people who are just aching for something good that they want to watch.

By contrast, Hollywood has been putting out not just those 'eww' shows such as 'Love is Blind' and 'The Boys' cited by RCI, but actual demon-glorification, as happened at its most recent Grammy awards show. Sure, these things get attention, but they are boring as hell and huge swaths of the audience turn away.

In other words, Hollywood's failures on its current model is not about the internet, or streaming, changing society, nor is it about some shift in human nature, or the effects of wokesterly education on the young changing their viewing habits. The demand and the money have been there all along and only Hollywood's disdain for Christians and other people of faith has prevented that money from going into their Hollywood pockets.

 That's crow-eating stuff, having values so bad it hits one in the pocketbook, which is what Hollywood has to be feeling as it looks at those 'The Chosen' figures.

'The Chosen' is showing just how badly Hollywood has missed on reaching its audience. Money talks in Hollywood and at some point, a few of them are going to wake up.

Image: Screen shot from The Chosen video clip posted on YouTube

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