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In the past few years, movies with Christian themes and content have been gaining more Hollywood releases in theaters across the U.S.

The latest Christian-infused movie, I Can Only Imagine, performed well at the box office with a $17 million intake.

The Week released the following report regarding the rise of Christian films in the movie industry, comparing today’s releases to those in the past:

“Christian movies are on the rise.

Just this weekend, I Can Only Imagine — a religious indie film about the best-selling Christian music single of all time — stunned observers by raking in more than $17 million, good for third-place at the weekend box office.

This is hardly a random occurrence. In 2015, the Christian publication Movieguide charted that the number of films with “strong Christian content” had steadily risen from 16 in 1996 to 65 in 2015. Annual box office receipts from these films during this period skyrocketed from $200 million to more than $5 billion. And it’s only getting bigger.

Throughout the ’90s, Hollywood didn’t think much about religious audiences. Few religious films were produced during this era, and the handful that made it to the big screen were made on miniscule budgets and featured mostly obscure actors. But something shifted in our cultural consciousness in the early 2000s. With terrorism fears spiking, many Americans became more consciously religious. Church attendance even spiked for a brief period.

As the frothy frivolity of the ’90s receded, and the world got darker, many Americans found solace, meaning, or escape in faith and film.

Famously, Mel Gibson shocked the world with a blood-soaked film retelling the final hours of Jesus’ life. In 2004, The Passion of the Christ earned more than $611 million worldwide on a $30 million budget and became the highest-grossing faith film in history.

Since then, America has experienced something of a faith-film renaissance. Many have been produced by major Hollywood studios and have featured A-list actors such as Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Garner, and Joseph Fiennes. Though none of these films have been able to recreate The Passion of the Christ levels of financial success, many have performed very well.”

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