The Surprising Success & Faith of ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’

Red Letter Christians | 7/15/2018 | Emily McFarlan Miller
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There’s a moment near the beginning of the documentary film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — as the trolley that transported millions of children to the Neighborhood of Make Believe is taken out of its box and Fred Rogers’ familiar sneakers are set next to a bench — when Margy Whitmer muses on the success of the show she produced for many years.

“We had a director who once said to me, if you take all of the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’: low production values, simple set, an unlikely star,” she said.


“Yet it worked, because it was saying something really important.”

The same might be said of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” itself.

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Over the weekend, the film, having expanded to 893 screens across the country, topped the $10 million mark at the box office, passing “RBG,” a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to become the highest-grossing documentary of the year, according to Aspiration Entertainment. Initially opening on 29 screens on June 8, it nearly doubled its reach from 350 to 650 just before the Fourth of July holiday.

Celebrities from Dan Rather to Korie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” have tweeted about “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Moviegoers in Tampa, Fla., threw a Mister Rogers block party in front of a theater, collecting sweaters and sneakers for children. Presbyterians sang along to the show’s iconic theme song as the trailer for the film rolled at the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s denominational meeting. Prominent pastor Mark Batterson’s National Community Church in the Washington, D.C., area is in the middle of a sermon series titled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago hosted a private screening for its JUF Young Families group.

Filmmaker - Morgan - Neville

Filmmaker Morgan Neville said he’s screened the...
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