Christian Retailing

Movies focus: Inspirational films enjoy 'great awakening' at convention Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 27 July 2009 02:53 PM America/New_York

'Off the chart' sales, screenings emphasis boosts category with a high profile and against-the-grain growth numbers


Inspirational films emphasized their importance as a growth category with a high profile and against-the-grain numbers.

A raft of premiere screenings—from documentaries to tear-jerking dramas—was the main evening attraction in the absence of traditional publisher receptions and music events, scrapped as part of suppliers' downsizing.

Meanwhile, retailers heard that DVD sales at Christian retail stores increased a remarkable 90% in the first six months of the year. The astonishing growth rate was revealed by Bob Elder, executive vice president and chief operating officer at media agency Propeller Consulting.

Speaking at a Product Intelligence Tour session on the home entertainment market, Elder added that even discounting sales of mega-hit Fireproof, DVD sales had still risen by 23% year to date.

Elder also noted how the Christian DVD category has changed since it began as children’s viewing-based. In 2007, 74% of the top-selling videos were kids, with only 3% feature films. By last year, feature films accounted for 62% of the market, and the top three selling films of 2008 were all feature-length releases.

Elder's encouraging message was echoed by former EMI CMG Distribution President Rich Peluso, who was back at ICRS in a different role—as the newly appointed vice president of Affirm Films, the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) division created to produce movie projects for the faith-based community.

Peluso took on the role after serving as a consultant to SPHE for two years, during which time he helped bring Faith Like Potatoes—an award-winning biopic about an African evangelist—to an American audience.

"I think there’s a great awakening to the power of film to deliver a message of truth," said Peluso, who was in Denver to meet with filmmakers, authors and agents as well as key accounts and marketing partners. "When Christian retailers close their books on 2009 and look back at the factors that were their business drivers, Fireproof will be in the top one or two or three. The numbers are off the chart."

Stephen KendrickThe men behind Fireproof—brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick—also visited ICRS, telling how they had heard from many retailers that the DVD release and their best-selling tie-in book, The Love Dare (B&H Books/B&H Publishing Group), had helped keep the stores in business.

Stephen Kendrick said he and his brother had been thrilled with the way the two projects had not only impacted countless marriages, but also had supported Christian bookstores. "Our prayer from the beginning has been, 'Lord, bless everyone who partners with us, who has a part in this journey,' " he said.

The pair revealed that they had recently received the green light for their next film project, through a process of prayer and discussion with other leaders at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., where Fireproof and their earlier films were made.

They declined to say what the new project was, other than "like the others, we want to impact families, to deal with issues that everyday people are going through," Alex said. "It's more about impact than entertainment."

Scriptwriting of the new project will start soon, with production due next year and a theatrical release planned for early 2011.

Alex Kendrick was a keynote speaker at the International Christian Visual Media (ICVM) conference that preceded ICRS, where Fireproof picked up four of the group's top annual awards. Some of the more than 150 ICVM attendees stayed on for ICRS to promote their films and seek distribution deals.

Among first-timers at the show was Joe Nasser, a longtime TV film producer who debuted his contemporary movie adaptation of What Would Jesus Do?, inspired by his personal battle with cancer.

"We got a strong welcome," said Nasser, whose WWJD company won CBA's best small booth staff award. "It sure beats dealing with Hollywood."

Tissues bearing author Karen Kingsbury's name were handed out to the audience at the premiere of the film version of her Like Dandelion Dust. Another first showing was for Big Idea's Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving DVD, a VeggieTales release due out in October.

His FOX television schedule prevented Oliver North's planned appearance at ICRS, but he was still featured at the show—as part of The Samaritan, which debuted there.

Telling the miraculous story of a Texas attorney's fight to help a Romanian defector—also to be a book by the same name for B&H Publishing Group's new Fidelis Books imprint—the Banias Entertainment documentary is due to release in the U.S. next year.

Another 2010 release premiered at ICRS was evangelism and church resource organization Outreach's To Save a Life. The film about an all-star athlete forced to make major changes in his life to help others is to be preceded by several October releases at retail, including a novelization and interactive audio devotional.