02/19/2014 10:13 am ET Updated Feb 21, 2014

Paramount Drowns Claims That Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah' Will Repel Religious Audiences


More than one month away from flooding into theaters, "Noah" looks like it's poised to become the next polarizing religious epic.

Paramount Pictures made an unlikely move this week when it released internal tracking data regarding Darren Aronofsky's $125-million depiction of Noah and the great flood, which stars Russell Crowe in the title role. The decision came in response to a Variety article, published online on Monday, that cited a Faith Driven Consumers survey claiming 98 percent of religious moviegoers are displeased with faith-based films. Paramount's beef is that Variety conflated the statistic, implicating "Noah," when it was meant to reflect an overall genre. (Per a press release, the survey, found here, poses the question broadly but contains a list of complaints raised about "Noah" directly following.)

In response, Paramount unveiled data from Hollywood tracking firms Nielsen's National Research Group and the Barna Group indicating that between 83 percent and 86 percent of self-defined "religious" moviegoers aware of "Noah" were anticipating its release.

"On our survey conducted over February 13th through February 15th, we found the majority of Pastors would recommend that people see the film 'Noah,'" Barna Group president David Kinnaman said in Paramount's rebuttal.

"We sent an email introducing our survey that squarely mentions 'Noah' and that links to an extensive article in The Hollywood Reporter, and 5,000 people responded, which is significant," Faith Driven Consumers founder Chris Stone told THR in response to Paramount's concerns. "I don't know how much clearer we could make it that it was about 'Noah' unless we got in their face and screamed it at them. I mean, we did everything but speak from a burning bush and say, 'This is about "Noah.'"

This conflict comes four months after Paramount reportedly raised concerns about "Noah" to Aronofsky, when test screenings with three demographics -- members of the Jewish faith in New York, Christians in Arizona and the general public in California -- all produced "worrisome" reactions. The movie's third act was said to deviate from the biblical parable, which led Paramount to cut several of its own versions of the movie. After what Aronofsky said was a "rough patch" between himself and the studio, Paramount eventually backed the director. The studio is now working to drum up anticipation among religious moviegoers with campaigns targeting faith-based audiences.

"Noah" opens in wide release on March 28. It's one of multiple religious movies hitting theaters this year, including "Son of God," the "Bible" redo that opens Feb. 28, and Ridley Scott's "Exodus," coming in December.

For more on swirling "Noah" controversy, head to THR. Paramount's full Variety rebuttal is below.

HOLLYWOOD, CA (February 18, 2014) – Paramount Pictures, distributor of Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming feature film “NOAH”, strongly disputes the inaccurate media story from Variety, who reported on a religious survey from the Faith Driven Consumer.

The question posed asked respondents if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed movie — designed to appeal to you — which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood.”

The survey question that had the 98% response rate did not contain any reference to the film “NOAH,” despite the fact that the Variety reporting implied that it did, and research from industry leading firms about the upcoming epic paints a very different picture.

Nielsen’s National Research Group (NRG), the industry’s decades long standard for measuring pre-release tracking of feature films (and other entertainment offerings), is tracking “NOAH” and has gauged, with still six-weeks to go before the film’s release and from self-defined “very religious” moviegoers, that 83% of those aware of “NOAH” in the pre-release tracking have expressed interest in seeing film.

Others in the Christian research field, includingthe Barna Group, the 30-year-old research and resource company widely considered to be a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture, have had a similar response to NRG in their own pre-release research done of behalf of “NOAH,” including the fact that 86% of Christian respondents who are aware of the film, said they would recommend “NOAH” to their friends.

Additionally, Barna Group’s President David Kinnaman, noted “On our survey conducted over February 13th through February 15th, we found the majority of Pastors would recommend that people see the film Noah.”

“NOAH,” from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises, stars Academy Award®-winner Russell Crowe in the title role in the film inspired by the epic story of courage, sacrifice and hope. Directed by visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and Logan Lerman also star. The film was written by Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel and produced by Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, Mary Parent and Arnon Milchan.



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