The success of the “God’s Not Dead” franchise has proven to mainstream Hollywood that there is a large audience in America looking for modern stories about faith.
The first film, released in 2014, was made for a minuscule $2 million. It ended up bringing in $60.8 million at the domestic box office.
That original film, which starred Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain, was followed by two sequels, the last of which was released in March of this year. All three films are now available in a special trilogy pack that will help audiences enjoy the films together.
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Melissa Joan Hart, who headlined 2016’s “God’s Not Dead 2,” told LifeZette in an exclusive interview that she was excited to join the franchise because it was clear just how instrumental it was in changing attitudes in Hollywood.
Hart, a mother of three who is originally from New York, revealed in a phone interview that it has “actually gotten easier” since “God’s Not Dead” came out in 2014 to get mainstream producers to listen to pitches about faith-friendly movies. At one time, though, this was not the case.
“It was a big struggle,” she said about making movies with themes of faith within Hollywood.
“They weren’t promoted [when they were made]. There wasn’t money behind them.”
But most of Hollywood tends to respond to what works — and what works makes money.
“‘God’s Not Dead’ opened up so many doors and created so many things like PureFlix,” Hart said, referring to the company that now makes the “God’s Not Dead” franchise and other faith-friendly stories, such as this year’s “Samson.”
Best-selling books and the publishing industry have also helped the return of faith-friendly content, said Hart, pointing to page-turners like “I Can Only Imagine” and how they inspired hit films.
“The movies are becoming better as well,” she added.
Hart has fond memories of filming “God’s Not Dead 2” and said she would love to make more films with themes of faith in the future. When she first signed on, however, she had no idea what to expect.
“Is it [going to be] like Bible study, or is it going to be like filmmaking?” she recalled thinking. She said it ended up being a wonderful blend of the two.
“Every day we started with a prayer,” she revealed.
Best known for television hits including “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Melissa & Joey,” Hart could have a unique role in her near future. She could be revisiting her very first television hit with a reboot of “Clarissa Explains It All,” which originally ran from 1991 to 1994.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed earlier this summer that a new iteration of the show starring Hart was in development. If that happens, Hart would revisit a role she once played as a teenager — a fairly rare position in which most actors never find themselves.
“There’s nothing concrete about that right now,” Hart said, adding that she had “no idea” what kind of show a sequel series would be. But original creator Mitchell Kriegman is spearheading the new effort, and she has plenty of confidence in him.
“I think it would be fun. [I think it would be] the right character for me to revisit.”
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And check out the trailer for “God’s Not Dead 2” below: