God’s Not Dead opened in March 2014 and went on to earn $62 million worldwide on a $2 million budget, proving once and for all that you don’t need Kirk Cameron in a tight sweater to sell a divisive Christian movie. Now the studio, Pure Flix Entertainment and its co-founder David A.R. White, are being sued by a pair of screenwriters for allegedly stealing the idea, which I’m pretty sure is heavily frowned upon by the Bible, right up there with the shrimp and butt stuff.
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in California on Monday, screenwriters Kelly Monroe Kullberg and Michael Landon Jr. claim that “God’s Not Dead” is a ripoff of their screenplay “Rise.”
Landon, as you may have already inferred from the name, is one of late Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie actor Michael Landon’s nine children. He also directed a number of faith-based films for the Hallmark Channel, including Love Comes Softly (starring Katherine Heigl!), Love’s Long Journey, and Love’s Abiding Joy, as well as a few follow-ups for the Fox Faith spinoff, including The Last Sin Eater. I don’t know who Kelly Monroe Kullberg is, probably just some lady. I’m kidding, she’s the author of the Finding God at Harvard and the follow-up, Finding God After Harvard, and hopefully the kicker, God: Still Hidin’ After These Years.
According to the complaint, “Rise” tells the story “of a freshman at Harvard facing an environment hostile to her Christian faith.” [T]he student then debates her professor three times on whether God exists.
The complaint notes numerous alleged similarities, stating, “The theme, set-up, opportunity, turning point, change of plans, complications, set back, final push, climax and aftermath of the ‘Rise’ screenplay and the ‘God’s Not Dead’ motion picture are the same.” [TheWrap]
I suppose Kullberg feels like she has a case on account of actually being a prominent Christian who went to Harvard, but that doesn’t change the fact that God’s Not Dead was essentially torn from the Marine Todd meme, which any shrewd idiot with a tolerance for tedium and an email account could’ve turned into a movie. I still want to see the Luke O’Neil version.
Interestingly, Kullberg and Landon are suing for $100 million, “a portion of God’s Not Dead‘s $140 million worldwide.”
Meanwhile, God’s Not Dead‘s lifetime international revenue is $62.63 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo. The only source for that $140 million number I can find is a Fox News interview with Kevin Sorbo. True, he says that includes DVD sales, but $80 million worth is a lot of DVDs.
Earlier this year, Pure Flix released God’s Not Dead 2 (yes I saw it), which has so far grossed a much more pedestrian (but still impressive) $20.699 million in global box office. Hey, God’s Not Dead franchise: You see that place where there’s only one set of footsteps in the sand? That’s where Kevin Sorbo was carrying you.
Good thing Shakespeare can’t sue for that unattributed quote. Also, “Josh Wheatin?” Poor Joss Whedon.