Depicting Christ’s ministry through serialized TV, The Chosen shines new light on Gospel events as it introduces an ongoing villain and elevates the role of Simon Peter’s wife.
More on that below, but first, some news.
The Chosen Stuns Hollywood at the Box Office
Bible-based TV series The Chosen, starring Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie as Jesus, continues to surprise Tinseltown insiders. According to BoxOfficeMojo, the theatrical run, which began Nov. 18, has currently grossed over $8.7M.
From Religion News Service:
Audience demand for the premiere of The Chosen’s Season 3 first two episodes is driving an extension of the original five-day run in cinemas all the way through Dec. 1 (Now Dec. 3).
With $8.75 million in sales opening weekend, The Chosen Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 was on 2,091 screens. Fans of the TV show came out in droves and made The Chosen #3 at the domestic box office, with a strong showing in 300+ theaters internationally, as well.
The Hollywood Reporter called it a “major upset” to see a theatrical event of The Chosen’s premiere Season Three episodes beating big-budget films.
A Legendary Screenwriter Offers Praise
It’s not just the faithful responding, either. Legendary screenwriter Paul Schrader, who wrote director Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, praised The Chosen as “bursting with original ideas.”
The Chosen Extends Theatrical Run, Announces New Foundation and App
The theatrical run, distributed through Fathom Events, has now been extended through Dec. 3 (wouldn't be shocked if it went further). Once it's over, those episodes will be available free on The Chosen mobile app, alongside existing seasons -- probably sometime in December.
That unconventional distribution model, backed by over $40M and counting in crowdfunding, has led to a global audience of more than 95M viewers. Producers aim for seven seasons and one billion people reached.
To that end, in a Nov. 20 livestream, series creator Dallas Jenkins announced the establishment of a new foundation, which also results in a new funding model for the show.
From Religion News Service:
Jenkins also announced the show would be supported by a new, independent nonprofit, the Come and See Foundation. He described the move as a way to “supercharge” efforts to reach a billion viewers around the world. The Chosen LLC will remain a for-profit company.
By partnering with a nonprofit — which includes Hobby Lobby heir Mart Green as a board member — donors can receive tax deductions for their gifts.
Donations go toward the production budget for “The Chosen,” Jenkins said on the livestream, and until season four’s budget is met, the Come and See Foundation will match contributions dollar for dollar. The foundation’s matching donations will go toward marketing for the show.
Jenkins also said that he's confident filming on Season 4 will begin in the spring, and that the show will be able to deliver one season per year going forward.
There will also be a new app to watch the show, launching Dec. 4. Jenkins noted that the show would remain an Angel Studios original.
The Chosen on Netflix?
Also, executive producer Derral Eves made a major announcement at the premiere event in Atlanta, Georgia, reported in Deseret News (thought not reported elsewhere yet):
Eves also confirmed that Angel Studios has struck a deal with Netflix for “The Chosen.” A formal announcement is forthcoming.
“We want the world to see ‘The Chosen’ and working with partners like Netflix is going get us out to a lot more people,” he said. “I would love a billion people to see the show and have it impact people in and around the world.”
The Actors Speak
Brandon Potter, who portrays Roman praetor Quintus — the series’ main antagonist — said in an interview that it’s been “wild” to see The Chosen become such a phenomenon.
“Nothing is set in stone in showbiz at all,” said Potter. “If there's no response, or there's no money, or we just made a terrible show, it maybe wouldn't have gone past season one. I couldn’t have guessed how popular and meaningful this show would become.”
Another key player in the show’s large ensemble of roughly 20 characters, Lara Silva, who portrays Simon Peter’s wife, Eden, agreed it “was a leap of faith for all of us.”
She added: “We came in with our loaves and fishes, just what we had in our hands. And God has really taken that and multiplied it in ways we did not see coming at all.”
Her sentiment echoes series creator-producer Dallas Jenkins, whose singular vision and salesmanship of it has translated into huge success.
In this process, Jenkins and his growing team have elevated Angel Studios, the Utah-based series distributor whose owners are devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
This ecumenical approach — including leading voices in Catholic, Protestant and Jewish circles consulting on the scripts — has not been without controversy. Recently, Jenkins swatted down rumors that the new trailer quotes the Book of Mormon.
In interviews with cast and crew members, they dismiss critics and invariably speak of how every person involved on-set is respected and how collaborative the set is.
“It's easy for a project this size to get away from everyone,” said Potter. “It kind of turns into: You show up, you never really know anyone's name, you do your thing, and you leave, right? But on The Chosen, real relationships have been the center of it from the start."
Faith Is ‘Never an Easy Road’
Season three promises to ratchet up the conflict and stakes. As Jesus’ ministry becomes more visible, suddenly, disciples find they face opposition. Some casual followers may fall away.
“You can't deliver the most famous sermon of all time right on the Romans' doorstep and not expect consequences,” said Potter. “Christ is gaining notoriety, so he and his followers can't operate (just) how they want to. So this is going to be the most emotional season yet.”
According to Silva, Simon Peter’s wife is among those who face “suffering and really hard things” in this upcoming cycle of eight episodes.
“You ask yourself, ‘Where is God in all of this? Why are things happening to me?’ You feel so alone,” said the actress.
Like her character, she views it through a faith lens. “It's never an easy road. But knowing that there is peace and light at the end of it, and there is healing coming, that's something I think that we all can relate to.”
Image: The Chosen
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager and Blog Editor at Family Theater Productions.
Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith and public-policy issues for various media outlets. He and his wife are raising two children in Northern Virginia.