|Faith-based motion pictures generate box-office buzz|
|Written by Eric Tiansay|
|Wednesday, 15 June 2011 02:13 PM EDT|
Movie tie-in products from publishers and suppliers help propel growing Christian film industry
Led by Soul Surfer, a plethora of Christian-themed movies has been generating a buzz at the box office, while drawing mainstream media attention.
Capitalizing on interest in the faith-based films, Christian publishers and suppliers have produced movie tie-in products, which are helping propel the growing Christian film industry.
Soul Surfer—the inspirational life story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, the Christian teen who had her left arm bitten off by a tiger shark—finished in the top five for its first two weekends after debuting in more than 2,000 theaters in April.
Heavily marketed to the faith-based community, the movie—which stars
Distributed by Sony Pictures’ TriStar label and marketed by the studio’s faith-based division
Rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material, the film is based on Hamilton’s Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board (MTV Books), which was sold in some Christian bookstores.
Several Christian-themed products are tied to the movie, including Soul Surfer: Movie Edition (MTV Books) and Devotions for the Soul Surfer (Thomas Nelson). Zondervan has published Rise Above: A 90-Day Devotional, Soul Surfer Bible and Ask Bethany: FAQs: Surfing, Faith and Friends.
Although some of the titles date back to 2007, “they have done well, and have been steady backlist sellers,” said Don Gates, vice president of marketing for trade books at Zondervan. “We expect to see renewed interest with the movie’s release.”
Meanwhile, church resource organization Outreach released four products, including Soul Surfer Church Kit, Soul Surfer DVD Study, Soul Surfer Study Guide and Soul Surfer: Catching God’s Wave for Your Life—a nonfiction book for preteens and teens. In June, Regal Books is publishing Raising a Soul Surfer by Cheri Hamilton—the young Hamilton’s mother.
“We expect the Soul Surfer-themed products to do very well,” Outreach Director of Product Development Jennifer Dion told Christian Retailing. “With a cast that includes major stars, we expect Soul Surfer to have broad exposure and create demand for movie-themed products.”
Dion added that Outreach has sold more than 2.3 million products related to Fireproof—which made $33.3 million at the box office in 2008, despite a modest $500,000 budget.
A church-produced film like Fireproof, The Grace Card—a police drama featuring Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. and a $450,000 production budget—made $2.4 million at the box office after seeing a limited theatrical release in February. It releases on DVD in August, and is available through Provident-Integrity Distribution.
Elsewhere, Jumping the Broom—scheduled to release in 2,000 theaters May 6, Mother’s Day weekend—was billed as “a lighthearted faith and family movie that cleverly addresses the cultural and spiritual challenges of abstinence, motherhood, family and relationships using comedy instead of a moral rod.” The movie stars Angela Bassett (Notorious, Meet the Browns), Paula Patton (Precious, Deja Vu), Laz Alonso (Just Wright, Avatar) and T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas and best-selling author.
Jumping the Broom is “not the type of film often considered ‘Christian,’ with a clear connection between a life change and a conversion of faith,” producers of the film said. “It is, however, an insightful study in relationships that comes from pastor (Jakes), who has observed people for many years.”
Also scheduled to release May 6, There Be Dragons—about Josemaria Escriva, founder of the Catholic Opus Dei movement and made by Roland Joffé, director of the Oscar-winning The Killing Fields and The Mission—was “a beautiful story” that “will resonate with the community of faith,” according to the film’s producers.
Motive Entertainment, which developed resources for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ and the first two installments in “The Chronicles of Narnia” film series, released teaching and preaching materials tied to There Be Dragons.
Another on-the-way title is Jerusalem Countdown, based on the book by John Hagee (FrontLine/Charisma House) and to be released in August, starring David A.R White, Lee Majors, Stacy Keach, Jaci Velasquez and Randy Travis.
Zondervan is releasing a movie tie-in edition to Seven Days in Utopia—which stars Robert Duvall and Melissa Leo, and is scheduled to hit theaters Aug. 12. The film is based on Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia by David L. Cook, published in 2009.
Meanwhile, Doonby, starring John Schneider and Jennifer O’Neill, is scheduled to be released in September. Described as a cross between It’s a Wonderful Life and Crazy Heart, the film tells the story of a Sam Doonby (Schneider), “who comes to a small town and turns it upside down with his revelations,” the film’s producers said.
Releasing in theaters Sept. 30, Courageous is the widely anticipated follow-up from the makers of the hit movie Fireproof—a top-selling DVD at Christian retail since it was released in January 2009.
Debbie Woodard, co-owner of Bethany Book & Gift in Baxter, Minn., saw the movie at one of its preview screenings for retailers and was “very impressed,” she told Christian Retailing. “We’ve told our staff that we expect the impact to be at least as powerful as Fireproof was. … We have begun a ‘waiting list’ of people that want to purchase the DVD.”
Tyndale House Publishers will publish the novelization of Courageous. Based on the screenplay by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Courageous: A Novel—to be released in August—will be written by Randy Alcorn. The film addresses fatherhood through the lives of four police officers.
A plot device in Fireproof, the Kendricks’ The Love Dare (B&H Books/B&H Publishing Group)—published in 2008 in paperback and in imitation leather in 2009—and their The Love Dare Day by Day devotional and wedding edition have sold more than 4 million copies internationally.