Monday, March 19, 2018

The third-biggest movie in America this weekend was I Can Only Imagine

The third-biggest movie in America this weekend was I Can Only Imagine, a movie that shares a title with a Christian song that first charted 17 years ago. It’s a retelling of the story of MercyMe's Bart Millard (played by newcomer J. Michael Finley) and his journey to forgive his abusive, alcoholic father (Dennis Quaid), as well as his father’s movement toward faith before his death.

Directed by brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, whose previous movies like Mom’s Night Out, Woodlawn, and October Baby were modest box office successes, I Can Only Imagine startled many by hauling in over $17 million, making more than $10,000 per screen and beating A Wrinkle in Time in its second weekend. That means it’s the seventh-biggest faith-based film opening ever (the fourth if the Narnia films don’t count), and the biggest since Heaven Is For Real in 2014.

There are a few reasons that I Can Only Imagine did well, and the biggest is the song that inspired the movie. It tells the story behind the most successful  contemporary faith song that was ubiquitous on Christian radio — and eventually crossed over to mainstream radio.

Vox argues that movies for the faith-based audience can be broken into three main categories. One is the inspirational category, more uplifting than specifically evangelistic, to which I Can Only Imagine belongs, along with high-performing movies like Heaven Is For Real, War Room, and The Shack.

Another is stories based on the Bible, with movies like The Passion of the Christ and Son of God. And the third is movies that are essentially political in nature, like the God’s Not Dead movies.

On the Friday before Palm Sunday, Paul, Apostle of Christ will open in theaters and start competing with I Can Only Imagine for the faith-based audience. The film stars Jim Caviezel, who is best known among the faith-based audience for playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ (and reportedly will reprise his role in an upcoming sequel).

And on Good Friday, God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness, the third installment in the God’s Not Dead series, opens in theaters. In this one, a pastor discovers that his church has burned down and that the university on which it was housed is using this as a reason to move the church off campus.

The God’s Not Dead series is hugely popular — and, like I Can Only Imagine, takes its title from a song, this time from the Christian rock band the Newsboys — and will pose stiff competition to the other two films.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

MercyMe, Blake Shelton and Craig Morgan Join Trace Adkins For "Jammin' To Beat The Blues"

Country star Trace Adkins has not only cemented his status as a country music icon, he has also made it his mission to help important causes throughout his career. Adkins serves as a spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project and the American Red Cross and has participated in 12 USO tours. Adkins will team up with Craig Morgan, Blake Shelton and MercyMe – as well as previously announced performers Jason Crabb and High Valley – on March 21 at the Ryman in Nashville to benefit Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee.

Adkins is currently on tour with Shelton and collaborated on the No.1 hit “Hillbilly Bone,” which won the 2010 ACM Award for “Vocal Event of the Year” and was RIAA Platinum-certified. One of the most visible and constant ambassadors of country music, Shelton  continues to serve as a coach on NBC’s The Voice, with Adkins currently serving as his team advisor.

A multi-faceted entertainer, Morgan has made a name for himself as a country music star, TV personality, celebrated outdoorsman and patriotic Army veteran. Twenty-five of his hit songs have climbed the Billboard chart, including the four-week No. 1, “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” Prior to his successful career in country music, Morgan spent seventeen years serving our country in the Army and Army Reserves and has since made 14 overseas trips to perform for our servicemen and women.

Rounding out the latest lineup is multi-Platinum selling band MercyMe. The contemporary Christian band made history in 2014 as “I Can Only Imagine” became the first song in Christian music to go platinum and double-platinum in the digital domain. Almost There, the album containing the hit, recently received triple-platinum certification from the RIAA. MercyMe is currently on a nationwide tour and just unveiled I Can Only Imagine – The Very Best of MercyMe, coinciding with the soon-to-be-released film I Can Only Imagine, in which Adkins plays MercyMe’s real-life manager, Scott Brickell.

“Never have I been surrounded by more talent," says Adkins. "I am thrilled and honored to welcome these three talented artists to the line-up!”

Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee's mission is to connect the community with specialized mental health and wellness resources, provide services that improve the quality of life, and promote effective services where mental health needs exist. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jon Foreman, Dustin Kensrue (Thrice), Propaganda and Aaron Marsh Perform for Mental Health Charity

Jon Foreman (Switchfoot), Dustin Kensrue (Thrice), Propaganda and Aaron Marsh (Copeland) performed a live collaborative cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." 
The performance occurred as part of Heavy and Light, an annual concert event hosted by the organization To Write Love On Her Arms. All of the musicians have been longterm partners with the charity, which aims to raise awareness, support and fund treatment around issues of mental illness and addiction. 

Each of the vocalists took a section of the song, and Propaganda added a freestyle spoken word verse to the Tom Petty classic. Also on stage with the musicians were opening band Nekokat and Josh Morales, an audience member and amateur guitarist who Jon Foreman had invited to share the stage with him.

After the completion of "I Won't Back Down," which was the encore for the evening, Jon Foreman suggested the artists all stay on stage for a group performance of "Lean On Me," which concluded the night. Foreman, who has been involved with the event since it began a decade ago, said of the evening "What an amazing night! My favorite #HeavyAndLight ever."

You can find a full stream of the entire evening on TWLOHA's Facebook page by clicking here.          



Monday, March 12, 2018

Faith Artists Already Repping on The Voice

Season fourteen of The Voice premiered on February 26, 2018, with new coach Kelly Clarkson and again features believers.

Wilkes (@WILKESmusic)
Stephanie Skipper (@StephanieSkip)
Jordan Kirkdorffer (@jkirkdorffer)
Gary Edwards (@iamgaryedwards)
Spensha Baker (@spenshabaker)
Kyla Jade (@kylasings)
Jaron Strom (@JaronStrom )
Kaleb Lee (@kalebleemusic)
Christiana Danielle (@ChristianaD)

In season 9, we noted that Christianity made a comeback on the show culminating with Jordan Smith  as the winner.

Mandisa Featured in American Idol Reboot

American Idol made its return to TVs, premiering on ABC after its long home on FOX. Correlating with the start of the season, the show launched its Icon Series, highlighting Grammy winner Mandisa. The beloved season 5 finalist discussed her journey after American Idol, both her musical career as well as her personal life. The series will continue to air throughout this season of American Idol, highlighting select Idol alumni and their achievements since appearing on the show.

Mandisa is currently on the “HITS DEEP Tour,” featuring a blockbuster lineup including TobyMac, Danny Gokey, Ryan Stevenson and Finding Favour. The 2018 "HITS DEEP Tour" is a partnership with K-LOVE, Air1 and Food for the Hungry.