Choosing To Be Contrarian On “The Chosen”
This is not a review on “The Chosen” because, like almost all Biblical adaptions for mass consumption, I’m not going to watch it.
Way back in 1965, George Stevens took the Biblical story of Jesus to the big screen, and the ensuing film The Greatest Story Ever Told became something of a Hollywood legend for the very earthly reasons of it’s budget. One of the most expensive movies ever shot in the United States, with a who’s who cast and cameos by dozens more, and even a good old fashioned studio lawsuit, Stevens reportedly shot enough film to wrap around the Moon to try and get his Biblical epic to be the Next Big Thing. It was a flop at the box office, panned by critics, and today is mostly forgotten about except for the occasional listing for over-the-top filmmaking, although it did garner five Academy Awards mostly for the sheer audacity of it.
While Biblical epics were not uncommon in Hollywood, and 1950’s Hollywood was awash in them, for every “Ben-Hur” or “Ten Commandments” that set a high bar with their filmmaking, treatment of matters of faith, and that made good financially, there were several “Esther And The King” and “King David” disasterpieces. The modern era has also proved hit or miss for what now are mostly referred to as “faith-based” films. While Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” hit a religious nerve and drove box office sales to the heavens, other efforts like Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” and a re-make of “Ben-Hur” were crucified at the box office by an uninterested audience.
So, for a Biblical epic to find major success, and mostly on its own, and to be crowdfunded to the tune of $40 million without any major studio or media help, sounds like something of a modern miracle. But it isn’t a miracle; it is the business model of “ The Chosen”, which has become something of a phenomenon. The Wall Street Journal details the rise of “The Chosen” both in audience and in its unique business model:
The success of the series is a powerful reminder to Hollywood that faith-focused projects can sometimes become breakthrough hits. But what makes “The Chosen” even more of an outlier is the way it is supercharging the crowdfunding model to sustain production through multiple seasons…