New Distribution For Christian-Themed Films
by Phil Boatwright

Remember The Passion of the Christ? Well, Hollywood studio executives sure do. When it became evident that there was a grassroots support of the Christian community for Mel Gibson’s passionate examination of Christ’s last hours and His ultimate sacrifice for mankind, it dawned on them that there was indeed an untapped market that had not been explored. A new generation in charge of Tinseltown is perhaps unaware of the success of the biblical epics that added significantly to their coffers throughout movie history. Or perhaps they assume that there is no longer a market for films that exalt Christ and therefore draw a Christian audience.

Whatever the reason, films with Christian themes are popping up sporadically at your nearby cineplexes. But it’s not just well-meaning Christians making these movies and struggling to get distributors. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is breaking sacred ground by forming a new branded distribution label to house its growing portfolio of faith-based programming.

Established for Christian retailers and churches/ministry organizations as a collection of inspirational films they can recommend and promote among their congregations, this new consumer and retail brand will be comprised of filmed entertainment with a clear Christian message or based on material by a Christian author. FoxFaith will be a home entertainment distribution label as well as the marketing engine for limited theatrical releases of films specifically made for and targeted to the Christian audience as well as those seeking quality, inspirational and spiritual entertainment.

“We’re in the business of entertainment, not proselytizing,” commented Jeff Yordy, vice president of marketing for FoxFaith. “We simply recognized that there was a hugely underserved audience and seized the opportunity to provide them with high-quality entertainment that reflects their values. And, as a result, we’ve seen explosive growth in this marketplace over the past few years, which only proves to us that we’re successfully tapping into our core constituency.”

On October 6, FoxFaith will open Love’s Abiding Joy in 75 cities, on 250 screens. (Locations and theater information is available to the public at FoxFaithMovies.com.) Influenced greatly by his dad’s Little House on the Prairie, writer/director Michael Landon Jr. has visualized this frontier adventure/drama from the fourth installment of Janette Oke’s bestselling books. It continues the story of a pioneer family overcoming the challenges that face them during the era of the Wild West. With more than 30 million copies of the book in print, the previous three titles (Love Comes Softly, Love’s Enduring Promise, Love’s Long Journey) ranked as the three highest rated films in the history of the Hallmark channel and are currently on the Christian Booksellers Association top 10 adult titles charts.

Since 2002 Twentieth Century Fox has been releasing appropriate products to the Christian Bookseller’s Association (CBA) retail stores and in 2005 launched the website Foxfaith.com as a “go to” resource for retailers, consumers, church leaders and other interested parties. To date, the studio has sold more than 30 million faith-based DVD’s, and in CBA has dedicated FoxFaith sections in more than 1,100 stores and the entire FoxFaith business has become a $200 million retail business.

In fact, the studio now dominates the sales charts at Christian retail outlets. Among the many titles released to CBA stores under the FoxFaith banner are Be Still, Mother Teresa, The End of the Spear, The Passion of the Christ, The Visitation, Love Comes Softly, Woman Thou Art Loosed and Beyond the Gates of Splendor. FoxFaith is also releasing wholesome family classics including The Sound of Music, Because of Winn-Dixie, Dr. Dolittle (with Rex Harrison), My Friend Flicka and many others.

There are plans for a minimum of six FoxFaith films to be theatrical releases per year, each of which will be supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign valued at nearly $5 million and targeting the core audience through television, newspaper, direct mail and other grassroots marketing, publicity and promotional activities. Covering approximately 40% of the United States, these FoxFaith theatrical releases will be available in selected markets through Carmike Theaters, AMC and other regional theater chains.

It should be interesting to see where FoxFaith will be in another ten years. Will the company be a mere memory, or will it have flourished? I guess that depends on box office results. You might keep that in mind whenever you see that name FoxFaith associated with a new release.

Read Phil's review of Love's Abiding Joy HERE.