Mass audience – Superman sold from America's pulpits
With its comic book appeal, a stellar cast led by Henry Cavill and a slick marketing campaign, the new Superman film, 'Man of Steel', was always expected to be a hit.
But the record-breaking weekend was in a large part thanks to America's mega-churches as their congregations flocked to the cinema after hearing the word of Superman from the pulpit.
The film took in $125 million over the weekend in the US, the biggest June opening in cinema history.
Warner Bros threw the full weight of its marketing machine behind it, but there was a less obvious promotional product tie-in – pushing the spiritual themes of a secular film to a Christian market.
Warner Bros employed Grace Hill Media, a public relations firm focused on the Christian market, to arrange screenings for pastors, supply churches with free film clips and even draft sermons that draw on themes in the film.
There are clear parallels between the film and the Bible – a celestial father figure who sends a son with super powers as saviour to make a sacrificial intervention, the reluctance of the middle man to assume his save-the-world role and the earthly powers who fear and reject the messianic figure.
Superman does not just boast powers and abilities that far exceed those of mere mortals, he also operates to a much higher moral code.
"He has the most extraordinary powers. He has the most extraordinary ideals to live up to. He's very God-like in a lot of ways and it's been difficult to imagine that in a contemporary setting," said Christopher Nolan, the director, in an interview.
It was long the case that God-fearing heartland America regarded Hollywood as a shorthand for licentious excess and liberal politics – its output often condemned from the pulpits as un-Godly.
The film industry in turn saw middle America as a lumpen audience to pack into easy-sell feel-good movies and crime films with safe wholesome star names.
But those times are changing as both Hollywood and the churches seek fresh audiences within the evangelical world. (© Daily Telegraph, London)