From left, Tim Ballard pictured at "Sound of Freedom's" Utah premiere, and AMC Theaters in New York City. The film has become a surprise hit at movie theaters in the U.S. despite claims theaters were "suppressing" audiences. Fred Hayes / Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Angel Studios
The movie Sound of Freedom has given Hollywood a major wake-up call as the small-scale production beat blockbusters like Mission: Impossible and Indiana Jones at the summer box office.Despite claims of "audience suppression" and years of uncertainty surrounding its release, Sound of Freedom has dramatically exceeded expectations, taking in almost $175 million at the box office. One industry expert believes Sound of Freedom's success can be attributed to "the forgotten viewers" who came out in force to support the movie.
The action drama, which takes aim at a global child trafficking network, has caught industry insiders unaware, as the producers Angel Studios, along with a crowdfunding campaign, have helped Sound of Freedom achieve huge financial success.
The summer season was supposed to be dominated by Barbie, Oppenheimer, Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, but instead Sound of Freedom has emerged to comfortably take the third spot on that list.
Released on the Fourth of July, Sound of Freedom immediately grabbed the top spot at the box office from Harrison Ford who was starring in his fifth Indiana Jones caper, while later on that month, Tom Cruise felt the force of Sound of Freedom as it overtook the seventh Mission: Impossible too. At the time of writing, Sound of Freedom has now overtaken both at the North American box office.
'Disrupting' Hollywood's Plan
"Believe it or not, on July 21, the biggest summer box office weekend of which Oppenheimer, Barbie and Mission: Impossible were supposed to run away with the box office dollars, one film, Sound of Freedom managed to disrupt Hollywood's plan to capture ticket sales," director and producer Stefano Da Frè told Newsweek.
Perhaps Da Frè can further appreciate Angel Studios' success as he himself is the president of his own production company, Rosso Films International.Sound of Freedom tells the story of Tim Ballard, the real life former American government agent who created the anti-child sex trafficking organization, Operation Underground Railroad. The movie stars Jim Caviezel as Ballard, and celebrities like Mel Gibson offered their support ahead of its launch.
Mission: Impossible and Indiana Jones both had significantly higher production costs and marketing budgets than Sound of Freedom. So how did a movie that cost just $14.5 million to make, overcome two movies that cost almost $300 million each to make?
Movie poster for "Sound of Freedom" (L) and the poster for "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny." The former shocked cinema buffs by beating the latter at the box office on July 4, 2023. Angel Studios / Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios
To fully understand Sound of Freedom's financial success and its impact on the current media landscape, we have to examine a cultural phenomenon called 'the forgotten viewer,'" Da Frè continued. "The forgotten viewer refers to a moviegoer who is traditionally conservative, often Christian, who has felt over the past 20 years that Hollywood has forgotten about them as an audience member."There are examples of larger studios attempting to create movies for Christian and conservative viewers, like Sony Pictures' Affirm Studios whose movies include Heaven is for Real. In 2021, Lionsgate distributed Kingdom Story Company's American Underdog to moderate success.
The 'Forgotten Viewer'"In fact this type of viewer will often pejoratively refer to Hollywood studios executives as 'elites' who are out of touch with the common core values of regular Americans. This forgotten class of viewership has taken it upon themselves, often at grassroot levels, to not only promote the film Sound of Freedom, but to also boycott Hollywood studios who don't align with their moral values," Da Frè said.
Boycotts for the sake of values aren't specific to the movie industry, as 2023 has seen a huge rise in consumers who've led boycotts against Bud Light, Target, Disney, Kellog's and most recently Skittles. Many of these attempted boycotts have been caused by culture wars between right-wing customers who disagree with LGBTQ+ stances taken by companies.
These are righteous movie audiences who sadly have been left behind by the progressive cultural agenda of Hollywood studios like Disney's and other studios trying to alter the storytelling of old classics, but with a more progressive prescription that reads "we know better than you" approach.
The loyalists of Sound of Freedom are ones who feel that there is finally a movie they can champion, that speaks to their moral compass, and as a result, those viewers will do anything financially to support the film, promote the film, and see its full success in the modern distribution era without the help of the Hollywood studios.
Jim Caveizel (R) stars as Tim Ballard in "Sound of Freedom," a movie which tells the true story of Ballard's transition from government agent to fighting global child sex trafficking. Angel Studios
Sound of Freedom's success comes despite its lack of international release. Angel Studios has announced that international audiences will finally get to see Sound of Freedom as it's incrementally released around the world at the end of August and into September and October.
Movie blogger and box office expert Paul Ferrer doesn't predict Sound of Freedom to replicate that intake abroad though. "While Sound of Freedom was a huge success in the U.S., these films don't travel well outside the U.S.," Ferrer told Newsweek. Pointing to previous Christian-centric movies, he predicted Sound of Freedom to collect around 10 percent internationally compared to what it earned domestically.
Audience Suppression and PaybackAll throughout Sound of Freedom's time in movie theaters, there have been countless viral moments from cinema goers who claim to have experienced moments of "audience suppression."
This has included, but not been limited to, fire alarms going off halfway through the movie, broken AC units forcing cancellation, unexplained evacuations and more. Millions of social media users have seen, liked, commented, reposted and shared these moments—putting the movie in front of people who may not otherwise have been aware of it.
A Newsweek poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that 58 percent of U.S. adults were familiar with Sound of Freedom. Of those, the majority thought of the movie favorably or very favorably, though the jury was out on whether they believed the movie had been "suppressed."
The CEO of AMC Theatres, Adam Aron, spoke out against accusations that his cinemas were somehow preventing people from seeing the movie, and the team behind Angel Studios thanked him for their support.
"Really bizarre FUD floating around Twitter that we are suppressing attendance for Sound of Freedom. Yesterday we showed that movie 3,000 times at our 570 U.S. theaters and more than 100,000 people watched it @AMC Theatres. Misinformation on Twitter is astonishing," he wrote on July 9, questioning whether it was bots or haters who were making the claim.
When approached by Newsweek for comment in mid-July, a spokesperson from Angel Studios said: "The theater issues are not a conspiracy and the studio is grateful for the thousands of theaters in America playing this important film."
The spokesperson added: "Our theatrical partners at AMC, CineMark, Regal, and beyond have been absolutely wonderful to work with—they're helping us add theaters as we speak in the middle the busy summer movie season."
As Angel Studios called on the support of fans to help distribute the movie, they proudly announced on Wednesday that investors had been paid back with profits included. In a statement sent to Newsweek, Angel Studios said they paid back the 6,678 crowdfunding investors plus a 20 percent profit. "6,678 Angel Guild members have now received $1.20 for every $1 they invested into the launch budget for Sound of Freedom, and we are thrilled to be able to get funds back to them in three months," said Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios. "The Angel Guild is key to our theatrical strategy and paying out as quickly as possible is always our first priority."