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. READ MORE