by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Christian Oriented Films Focusing on "Now", not "Period" , Emerging in Mainstream

At one time the mere mention of religion or Bible in a film meant a period recreation of Noah, Moses, or Samson. The rise of conservative influence has fostered a genre of Christian relationship flicks set in present days most negating hell fire and damnation sermons. Instead, the themes are hope, positivity , love and compassion.

Such kindness and inclusion had been reserved for "The Magnificent Obsession" (do a kind deed and keep it anonymous) or "Pay It Forward," but uplifting and salvaging relationships have been boxoffice gold (thanks to recruiting faith based communities in promo campaigns) for "Courageous," "Fireproof," "The War Room" and sports related vehicles such as "Facing the Giants" and "When the Game Stands Tall."

However, the up beat praise tune "Mercy Me" prompted a surprise --- "I Can only Imagine," a film about its creation --- pulled more fans than the second week of a spiritual themed empowering young women visual mecca with Oprah, "A Wrinkle in Time" and the debut frame of another tweak on romantic comedy , "Love, Simon," which celebrates a teen's coming out as gay. 

Internet review scores (Rotten Tomatoes, Megascore) did not matter, either ... "Simon" rated in the 70s while "I Can only Imagine" did not make 30. 

Jon and Andrew Erwin found a formula in "Woodlawn," which tackled racism through brotherhood. "Imagine" avoids "too preachy" as a young lead singer (Bart Millard from Mercy Me) in which you winch anticipating a slap or punch from the abusive dad played by Dennis Quaid. 

Struggling with forgiveness and reconciliation, he pens "I Can Only Imagine," which turns the band into superstars. 

The Erwin directorial team does not preach to the so-called choir, which translates to a luring  filmgoers beyond the Christian target to ponder survivor strategies for physical and emotional abuse.   

 Easter also brings God is not Dead III --- A Light in Darkness, Paul Apostle of Christ and Mary Magdalene.

Projected for fall, Unbroken Path to Redemption which follows Louis Zamperini's life following his rescue in the 2014 Angelina Jolie directed production. 

Swinging back to embracing empowerment in a romantic comedy context, Amy Schumer endures a knock on the head which twists her vision of herself --- she doesn't 'pretend' to be a self assured 'hottie,' her brain has her convinced so Schumer's strutting awesome stuff in the same body surprising friends and foes. 

Slated for a late April release, both McG and Mary Viola (We Are Marshall, The Duff) have their producer credits attached. It will open opposite "Solo: A Star Wars Story," which is brilliant counter-programming.