Hollywood renews faith in films

Hoping to capitalise on the growing market for faith oriented films such as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Rupert Murdoch's Fox film division is announcing plans to make up to a dozen major films a year under the FoxFaith banner.

The Los Angeles Times reports that in what it describes as "the biggest commitment of its sort by a Hollywood studio", News Corp's Fox Filmed Entertainment is expected to unveil plans to produce as many as a dozen FoxFaith films a year with at least six of those films to be released in theatres under an agreement with two of the largest US chains, AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas.

The first theatre release, a $A2.5 million production entitled, "Love's Abiding Joy," is scheduled for release next month. The movie is based on the fourth installment of Christian novelist Janette Oke's popular series, "Love Comes Softly."

"A segment of the market is starving for this type of content," Simon Swart, general manager of Fox's US home entertainment unit told the LA Times.

"We want to push the production value, not videotape sermons or proselytise."

Hollywood has a long history of movies with religious themes including "The Ten Commandments" and "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

However, FoxFaith aims to target evangelical Christians who often have shunned popular entertainment as offensive, the Times says, describing Fox as an apparently "unlikely studio to pioneer a religious label, given its history as a purveyor of salacious TV programming".

However, recently 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has built up a network of evangelical Christian moviegoers, including 90,000 congregations and a database of more than 14 million mainly evangelical households.

FoxFaith films, to be based on Christian bestsellers, will have small budgets of less than $5 million each, compared with the $60-million average. The movies each will be backed by $5-million marketing campaigns.

For instance, "The Passion" grossed $612 million worldwide, thanks in part to its appeal to Christians. Another spiritual odyssey, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," took in $745 million globally. Most recently, Christians came out for this summer's controversial "The Da Vinci Code," which has brought in $754 million worldwide.

Other studios also are planning new films on religious themes including New Line Cinema's "The Nativity Story," scheduled for December release in the US, which tells the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter to give birth to Jesus.

Another studio, Legendary Pictures, which has a multi-film deal with Warner Bros, is planning to make a movie version of John Milton's epic 17th century poem about the fall of man, "Paradise Lost."

Fox Home Entertainment is also distributing Christian videos such as "Mother Teresa" and the documentary "Beyond the Gates of Splendor."

With faith in hand, Fox seeks abiding joy at the box office (The Age, 20/9/06)
New Fox Unit to Produce Christian Films (Los Angeles Times, 19/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Fox Faith Films (Corporate)

20 Sep 2006