Christian Retailing

‘Son of God’ exceeds expectations in second-place opening Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 08:26 AM America/New_York

Tie-in products available at retail for Gospel-based blockbuster movie

SonOfGodMoviePosterSon of God debuted to a $25.6 million opening weekend Feb. 28-March 2, far exceeding recent tracking estimates of $13 million and $22.5 million. This performance made the Jesus biopic the second-highest-grossing film of the weekend, just behind the Liam Neeson-fronted thriller Non-Stop, which also made its debut Feb. 28.

Produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey—the team behind The Bible miniseries—Son of God also managed to outperform the highly successful The Lego Movie, which saw its bid for a fourth consecutive weekend at the No. 1 slot come to an end.

Amid a groundswell of support from Son of God came out of the gates strong with an estimated $9.5 million in box office receipts opening day, just behind the $10.1 million Non-Stop earned that day. Though Son of God didn’t manage to overtake Neeson’s thriller, the biblical film’s earnings grew substantially throughout the weekend.

The Gospel-based drama’s opening weekend viewership was 62% female, with 82% being 25 years of age or older, according to Filmgoers gave the movie an “A-” CinemaScore.

With no major star driving the film’s appeal, an expansive grass-roots effort has led the push for Son of God. Christian retailers, churches, organizations, radio stations, bloggers and others have helped market the movie, buy out theaters for dedicated screenings and distribute tickets to patrons in the lead-up to the film’s release.

Though no DVD release date has yet been announced, several tie-in products are available. Current offerings include a Son of God novelization written by Burnett and Downey (FaithWords), Rick Warren’s Son of God: The Life of Jesus in You Bible study materials (B&H Books) and the Son of God: Music Inspired by the Epic Motion Picture audio CD (Word Entertainment/Word Distribution).

Provident Distribution moves away from store rep visits Print Email
Written by Ken Walker   
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 08:23 AM America/New_York

Distributor to serve Christian retailers’ music and DVD needs via Internet and phone following staff restructure

RandyDavisProvident Distribution has downsized its last three field sales representatives as part of a restructuring plan placing more emphasis on Internet and phone sales. The move is reflective of the industry-wide squeeze on the sale of recorded Christian music.

Technology is prompting other changes as well. Along with the staff reduction, Vice President of Sales Randy Davis said Provident is developing ways of participating in more live streaming of musical artists’ events and theatrical releases.

“Additionally, we continue to expand the functionality of our ‘Business to Business’ solution at to manage their accounts and order product at their convenience,” Davis said.

A former Provident sales rep who left the company at the end of 2013 had anticipated the move, saying he and other employees had observed a downward trend in music sales the past five years.

“It’s the nature of the industry and the economy,” he said, citing the fact that more music is available through online streaming and fans purchasing recordings on iTunes and other portals. “We all sensed they were going to phase us out. We didn’t have a timeline, but the signs were there.”

Provident opted to retain three telesales reps for independent Christian retailers, who also can use for online orders. In the past, if travel or other considerations made it more economical, the former rep said he would encourage retailers to use the ordering site after finalizing their selections. 

Although music sales had declined, Provident’s video business had increased in recent years. DVDs performed well in the home market, even with certain films that didn’t fare that well at the box office, the former rep said.

Still, the former rep sees trouble ahead for that segment of the market as well.

“I think you’ll see changes because of Netflix and all these streaming sites you can get online now,” he said. “That’s going to change people’s buying habits too.”

Although he thinks the impact of e-books affected traditional print sales much quicker, he traces the decline in recorded music sales to the advent of Napster in the late 1990s. 

Although legal challenges eventually forced the file-sharing service to stop offering free downloads, he said the early site still boosted the digital buying trend.

Provident isn’t the only Nashville distribution giant affected by these changes. 

“Capitol has cut down, and I don’t think Word has had a sales rep for the past three years,” he said. “It just got to the point where that’s what ended up happening.”

Provident Distribution is the Christian retail sales and marketing arm of Provident Music Group and Provident Films, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. It represents such artists as Casting Crowns, Third Day, MercyMe and Israel Houghton. Among the movie producers it represents are Provident Films, Affirm Films/Sony Pictures Entertainment and FoxFaith/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Obamacare delay takes heat off mid-sized employers Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 08:20 AM America/New_York

Contentious delays could help retailers with healthcare law’s implementation

Mid-sized employers have been granted another year before they will be legally required to offer health insurance to nearly all full-time employees. The Obama administration announced another delay in the employer mandate section of the Affordable Care Act—also known as Obamacare—pushing the requirement back to 2016 for companies with 50 to 99 full-time employees.

Larger companies—defined by the law as having 100 or more employees—also were granted a reprieve in the announcement. Though their implementation date remains Jan. 1, 2015—delayed by a more sweeping announcement in July from the law’s original 2014 deadline—large employers will only be required to offer insurance to 70% of full-time workers by that time, instead of the 95% originally mandated.

Small employers—those with 49 or fewer employees—will not be required to offer insurance or fill out any forms, but will instead be able to purchase health plans through new marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. The federal small-business marketplace, which was supposed to roll out in October 2013, has been delayed until the fall.

Though the administration’s unilateral delays have raised the ire of the law’s critics and proponents alike, the employer mandate delays offer some breathing room to employers still struggling to implement the law’s requirements.  Failure to comply with the requirements can carry steep fines, and with sections of the employer mandate still being questioned on legal and moral grounds—most prominently in the upcoming Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case dealing with the contraceptive portion of the mandate—the requirement’s delays will offer more time for employers and enforcers alike to better assess and implement the law’s changes.

Author Todd Starnes takes stand in culture wars Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 02:42 PM America/New_York

Politically incorrect FOX News commentator says it’s no longer ‘God bless America’ but ‘God Less America’

ToddStarnesGodLessAmericaWhen FOX News & Commentary radio host and author Todd Starnes says he feels like “a Duck Dynasty guy living in a Miley Cyrus world,” he means it. The self-professed Bible-believing, sweet-tea-drinking conservative commentator believes that many Americans feel the same way—concerned about living in a culture that is turning away from God at record speed. In God Less America, his new FrontLine (Charisma House) book, in stores May 6, Starnes argues that there is an aggressive culture war on religious liberties, specifically against the Christian faith.

“In the book, I sort of likened myself to a modern-day Paul Revere,” Starnes said. “I don’t have a horse or a lantern, but I have a microphone and a laptop, and I can type at the top of my voice, shouting, ‘The secularists are coming! The secularists are coming!’ and they really do want to take away our right to worship God.” 

Starnes’ FOX News & Commentary is heard daily on the FOX News Radio network. Throughout his career, he has covered a number of high-profile stories—taking him from Wall Street to the White House. He has made regular appearances on FOX & Friends and Hannity’s America. His work is heard on hundreds of radio stations around the nation, and his website,, is read by more than 2 million people monthly.

FOX News talk show host Mike Huckabee wrote the foreword to God Less America.

“We are seeing time and again the mainstream media assault people of faith for following Christian principles,” the former presidential candidate and governor told Christian Retailing. “Whether it be the Chick-fil-A boycott or Phil Robertson’s suspension from Duck Dynasty, those who stand on solid faith-based principles are being taken to task for not being politically correct.

“I wrote the foreword to Todd’s book because Americans need to recognize the important role God plays in all that is good about our great nation. We cannot become a nation that seeks to shame and condemn those who seek to live by God’s Word.”

Starnes uses real-life news stories as evidence of how the federal government has actively stripped individuals and organizations of their right to worship freely and maintain a public belief in Jesus. The book includes stories such as the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ministry being kicked off a Florida college campus for holding a Bible study in a student’s dorm room (at the student’s invitation) and a North Carolina pastor being told he could not pray “in the name of Jesus” in a public invocation. 

Another of Starnes’ stories centers on a ministry in Lake City, Fla., that feeds the poor. Christian Service Center was told it would no longer receive U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food if it did not remove religious information where government supplies were being distributed.

Starnes says the CSC story is just one of hundreds of examples of religious freedoms being taken away across the country by the government. The FOX host hopes God Less America will open the eyes of Christians to the ways their freedoms are in jeopardy and inspire readers to get involved politically and socially to preserve their right to worship and practice their faith.

“I’m laying out the evidence, saying, ‘Folks, this is what is happening in your country. What are you going to do about it?’ ” Starnes said. “These stories do not typically appear in the major newspapers or evening network newscasts. The mainstream media refuse to cover these. They are turning their backs on these stories. 

“We live in a world where what was once wrong is now right and what was once right is now wrong,” he added. “Cultural agendas are being shoved down our throats, and it seems like there is this attitude that it is not even good enough to tolerate them. We must embrace and accept what people do and how they live their lives.”

Starnes said that when he told Rick Warren about this book project, the Saddleback Church pastor told him that he believes the war on religious liberty is going to be the civil rights fight of this generation. Starnes believes it already is.

“If you disagree with someone, you’re a racist or homophobic or xenophobic; that’s not it at all,” Starnes said. “I think when people read this book, they are going to be shocked at all these stories. And maybe someone is going to read this and say, ‘I need to run for the school board,’ or, ‘I need to bring my church youth group to the annual Walk for Life in Washington, D.C.’ We must pray, we must be on our knees, but it will also take men and women of faith becoming politically active, actively taking part in our government to make a change.”

Starnes is also the author of They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick (Creation House) and Dispatches From Bitter America (B&H Books).

 To promote his new book, he plans to launch a bus tour May 11-17, stopping in Spartanburg, S.C.; Atlanta; Nashville; Tulsa, Okla.; and Dallas for book signings, church speaking engagements and media appearances. The author is partnering with Christian Supply of Spartanburg, where Starnes will hold a book signing, and LifeWay Christian Stores for the tour.

Charisma House is supporting the release of the new book with an opportunity for bookstores to win cash prizes.

Participants must register for the contest and submit a photo of their in-store display of God Less America. Upon the determination of online votes for each photo, the winning store receives a cash prize. Two winning stores will receive $2,000 each, and each runner-up will receive $500.

“We are highly anticipating the release of God Less America,” said Marcos Perez vice president of sales at Charisma House. “From a sales standpoint, we believe this contest will engage our partnering bookstores and add to the momentum that is already building for this book release.”

Starnes is thankful for Christian stores that take a stand with the important message in his book and others like it, as well as making available other Christ-honoring products. He enjoys doing signings and meeting the people who believe in his message enough to the buy the book.

“I’m a people person, and if people are going to buy the book, I’m going to stick around to sign every one,” he said. “I think the Christian products industry is still massively important. Given the preference, I would always shop at a family-owned Christian bookstore or a chain like LifeWay rather than go somewhere else. I have paintings and sayings hanging in my office that were purchased at a Christian bookstore. Those items inspire me.”

Starnes encourages Christian retailers to stay in the fight, noting how hard it is to find a Christian store in New York City.

“It’s so important,” Starnes said. “We need you.”

RIAA music awards now acknowledge streaming Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 09:00 AM America/New_York

DuckTheHalls-RobertsonsThe Recording Industry Association of America added song streams to its Gold & Platinum (G&P) Program in 2013, which helped fuel a record-breaking 663 Digital Single Awards—a 25% increase year-over-year and the most in G&P history.

“In a landmark year for our half-a-century-old Gold & Platinum Program, RIAA added music streams to awards to better recognize artists’ commercial success in a transformative marketplace,” said Cary Sherman, RIAA chairman and CEO. 

Among the Christian market music honors were Duck Dynasty’s The Robertsons, which went Platinum with Christmas album Duck the Halls (Universal Records Nashville/Capitol Christian Distribution). Chris Tomlin’s singles “I Will Rise,” from 2008’s Hello Love, and “I Will Follow,” from 2010’s And If Our God Is for Us… (both sixstepsrecords/Capitol Christian) received Gold status in the digital single category.

Laura Story’s “Blessings” (from Fair Trade Services/Capitol Christian’s Blessings) achieved Gold certification in the digital single category, and is her first song to do so. Matt Redman also received his first Gold for “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” from his sixstepsrecords/Capitol Christian album 10,000 Reasons.

Third Day’s 2007 Chronology albums (both Essential Records/Provident Distribution) each received Multi-Platinum status in the video longform category, as the albums are two-disc CD/DVD sets. The Multi-Platinum sales mark for video longform titles is 200,000 copies sold.

The sales thresholds in the album and digital single categories are 500,000 for Gold, 1 million for Platinum and 2 million for Multi-Platinum.

‘JESUS’ film remastered to celebrate 35th anniversary Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:58 AM America/New_York

Cru’s Scripture-quoting movie classic to be available in three high-definition formats at retail and online

JESUSFilmJESUS, the most watched film in history, has been remastered in high definition with a complete new musical score in Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Released 35 years ago, the film has been viewed billions of times.

Retitled The JESUS Film, the classic account of Jesus’ life will have select theatrical showings beginning this month. Additionally, partnering with Cinedigm and Mission Home Video, the high-definition film will be available in Blu-ray, DVD and digital formats in retail and online April 1.

JESUS depicts Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection as told in the Gospel of Luke. Virtually every word Jesus speaks in the film is quoted from Scripture, with 450 leaders and scholars having reviewed the script for biblical accuracy.

“When the original JESUS film was released 35 years ago, it was ahead of its time,” said Erick Schenkel, executive director of The JESUS Film Project, a ministry of Cru. “Yet, while the film has introduced billions of individuals around the world to the person of Jesus, few in the U.S. have ever seen it. We believe this new remastered version will give audiences an accurate picture of who Jesus is and why individuals around the world have chosen to follow Him, shown with production values they have come to expect.”

The film has been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Translated Film in history, and is now is available in 1,197 languages. More than 200 million individuals have indicated a decision to follow Jesus after viewing the film.

Oscar nod rescinded for inspirational film Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:57 AM America/New_York

Alleged ethical breach disqualifies song sung by Joni Eareckson Tada

AloneYetNotAloneEnthuse Entertainment’s historical drama Alone Yet Not Alone garnered a 2014 Oscar nomination for Best Original Song—but then ran into trouble. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rescinded the song’s nomination just days after the original announcement. 

Bruce Broughton, who composed the song with Dennis Spiegel, is a member of the executive committee at the Academy and was flagged for sending Oscar voters an email bringing to their attention the underdog song sung by best-selling author and Christian recording artist Joni Eareckson Tada.

While other nominees’ representatives had engaged in similar marketing efforts to draw attention to their songs, the Academy’s Board of Governors felt Broughton’s actions were inappropriate and constituted an ethical breach due to his position on the Academy’s executive committee.

Tada—a quadriplegic who founded Joni and Friends to meet the needs of the disabled—was excited about the nomination as a chance to bring attention not only to the film, but also to people with disabilities like herself. 

“While I can only imagine the disappointment of music writer Bruce Broughton and lyricist Dennis Spiegel in the rescinding of their Oscar nomination, it in no way detracts from either the song’s beauty or its message,” Tada said. “I was humbled and honored to have been asked to sing it for the film and was as surprised as anyone when I learned of the song’s nomination.”

It’s not all grim news, though, as Movieguide announced plans to feature Tada performing “Alone Yet Not Alone” at its Feb. 7 awards gala in Los Angeles. Furthermore, despite the disappointing turn of events for the Oscar hopeful, the movie’s visibility has been greatly increased by the surprise nomination and rare disqualification.

The title-track single is available digitally through iTunes, and the full soundtrack, composed by William Ross, will be available in stores in 2014. DVD release information has not yet been announced. Zondervan released Tracy Leininger Craven’s Alone Yet Not Alone (Zonderkidz) YA book in December.

Alone Yet Not Alone tells the story of Barbara and Regina Leininger and their journey of faith and survival during the French & Indian Wars in 1755. Captured by the Delaware Indians in a raid and transported 300 miles to Ohio, the sisters are sustained by their trust in God and their hope of escape. 

In its limited theatrical release last September, Alone Yet Not Alone became the highest-grossing film on its opening weekend in terms of per-screen average (combining theater and Seatzy ticket sales), reaching $13,396 per screen.

Mandisa, Tye Tribbett excel at 2014 GRAMMY Awards Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:56 AM America/New_York

Capitol Christian artists each receive first two awards

GrammyLogoMandisa and Tye Tribbett each went home with a pair of awards from the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards, held Jan. 27 in Los Angeles. The awards are the first GRAMMYs won by either artist, though each has received nominations in previous years.

Mandisa’s Overcomer (Sparrow Records/Capitol Christian Distribution) won Best Contemporary Christian Music Album, while the album’s title track took home the prize for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song. Mandisa was inspired by Good Morning America host Robin Roberts’ health battle in writing the song.

Tribbett’s Greater Than live album (Motown Gospel/Capitol Christian) won Best Gospel Album, and his song “If He Did It Before… Same God [Live]” was named Best Gospel Song. Tribbett was also celebrating his birthday GRAMMY night.

Tasha Cobbs rounded out the Christian music categories, with “Break Every Chain [Live]” from the album Grace (Motown Gospel/Capitol Christian) winning Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance, passing “Overcomer” and “If He Did It Before… Same God [Live]” among others on the way to the top of the category.

‘ESV Study Bible’ hits 1 million-copy milestone Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:55 AM America/New_York

‘Astonishing’ success to benefit Scripture-distribution ministry

ESVStudyBibleCrossway has announced that 1 million copies of the ESV Study Bible have been sold and distributed worldwide. This milestone takes on further significance as the company has provided more than $1.5 million from the study Bible proceeds to help underwrite Bible ministry distribution projects and the development of ESV Bible resources around the world—including support for the printing and distribution of more than 250,000 Chinese-English (ESV) Bibles in China.

“It is astonishing to see what the Lord is accomplishing with the ESV Bible in general, and with the ESV Study Bible in particular,” said Crossway President Lane Dennis. “In addition to the 1 million ESV Study Bible milestone, more than 90 million ESV Bibles have now been distributed and accessed worldwide in all formats, including print, web and digital.”

First published in 2008, the ESV Study Bible was the recipient of the Christian Book of the Year award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the WORLD Magazine Book of the Year award, both presented to Crossway in 2009.

The study Bible was created under the leadership of J.I. Packer, theological editor, and Wayne Grudem, general editor, along with a team of more than 90 evangelical scholars and teachers. It was also the first study Bible to be simultaneously published in print and digital formats, and Crossway includes free online access with the purchase of any print copy. 

The study Bible is now available in more than 30 print editions and formats, as well as in multiple digital editions, including the iOS mobile app, e-book formats and global online access.

‘Jesus Calling,’ ‘Duck Dynasty’ titles rank as top sellers of 2013 Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:54 AM America/New_York

Faith-based books found large audience, according to end-of-year figures from Nielsen BookScan

JesusCallingHCSarah Young’s Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson) dominated Christian-market charts for much of last year, but the New York Times best-seller has another claim to fame. It is one of the best-selling books of 2013 in sales overall. Two Howard Books’ titles by the Robertson clan of Duck Dynasty fame also appeared on the Nielsen BookScan list.

Jesus Calling ranked at No. 7 on the Nielsen BookScan Top 20 for 2013, while Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson and Si-Cology 1 by Si Robertson came in at No. 10 and No. 19, respectively.

On the Amazon Print Top 20 list for 2013, Jesus Calling came in at No. 5, ahead of Dan Brown’s Inferno. Gary Chapman’s perennial favorite, The 5 Love Languages (Northfield Publishing/Moody Publishers), also placed on this list at No. 17, while Rob Elliott’s Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids (Revell/Baker Publishing Group) rounded out the list at No. 20.

Although not published in the CBA market, other faith-based titles performed well. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (Henry Holt) landed at No. 3 on BookScan and at No. 10 on Amazon Print, while Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander (Simon & Schuster) sits at No. 4 on BookScan and No. 11 on Amazon Print.

Amazon Publishing launches new Christian imprint Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:35 AM America/New_York

First Waterfall Press titles debut as company aims to publish ‘original Christian content with enduring appeal’

WaterfallPressAmazon Publishing announced the launch in January of Waterfall Press, a new Christian fiction and nonfiction imprint.

Waterfall titles will be published by Brilliance Publishing, part of the group of companies, which offers readers self-help and personal growth books under the Grand Harbor Press imprint.

“Brilliance has over 12 years of experience serving the Christian market as audiobook publisher of some of the most successful Christian authors writing today,” said Mark Pereira, president and publisher of Brilliance Publishing. “We are excited to expand our offering to readers of faith-based material by publishing original Christian content with enduring appeal.”

Nonfiction titles from Waterfall Press ( will aim to provide spiritual refreshment and inspiration to today’s Christian reader, while the imprint’s fiction will include stories in the romance, mystery and suspense genres.

Waterfall Press planned to make its debut with Mark Buchanan’s The Four Best Places to Live (February); Cherie Hill’s When You Need a Miracle (April); and Jay Hein’s The Quiet Revolution (June). Buchanan is a best-selling author, as is Hill, in the self-publishing market. Hein was director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Tammy Faxel, who brings 30 years of experience in the Christian publishing industry through prior posts at Tyndale House Publishers and Oasis Audio, will provide editorial oversight.

Mark Kuyper, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, reflected on the impact of the new imprint for Christian publishing.

“Amazon’s decision to launch a Christian imprint is not surprising given the expansion of their publishing program over the last few years,” Kuyper said. “Of course, this continues the bifurcation of our publishers’ relationships with them as a key retailer and a publishing competitor.”

Additionally, Waterfall will publish shorter content, including works by Bryan Wilkerson (Living Deep, March); Dan Meyer (Discovering God, April); and the editors of Christianity Today (Billy Graham; Leading With Love, April). Several of the books on the launch list—including The Four Best Places to Live and The Quiet Revolution, will be published in collaboration with Christianity Today.