What to do when there are no Christian films in theatres?

We’re not seeing godly movies

So why don’t we organize a Christian film festival?

Movies made by Christians in the United States are not finding distribution in New Zealand, but the solution could be a small Christian-themed festival.

About five movies made by Christians last year did not find a distributor in this country.

Two of the movies, Hoot and How to Eat Fried Worms, were made by Walden Media, a company founded in the U.S. by a Christian entrepreneur, which prides itself on making educational movies from children’s book adaptations.

Yet bigger Walden movies, such as blockbusters The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Charlotte’s Web, find a theatrical release in New Zealand.

The other three movies, One Night with the King, Facing the Giants, and End of the Spear, contain a high faith in God-quotient. They have not found a theatrical release date here.  

Hoyts Distribution NZ Ltd says it will not deliver any of these titles.

Hadyn Smith, film manager of Reading Cinemas, said he had not seen any of the titles on the release schedules for the major film distribution companies in New Zealand.

“At this stage I do not think that we will be screening any of them,” Mr Smith said.

Distributor Rialto Entertainment did not reply to an email message asking whether they will distribute any of the five films.

Grant Bradley and John Davies considered distributing End of the Spear in partnership between their companies Allegro Pictures and Arkles Entertainment respectively. They had both viewed the movie but felt it was not good enough to attract an audience.

However, the production company behind End of the Spear is offering their film as a ministry opportunity. On their website, performance licenses are available for Spear and another title, Beyond the Gates of Splendour.

The site says the licenses allow the holder the right to host a public exhibition for the selected film.

“They are a great tool for your school, church or organization to use in meetings and special events”, the site says.

One Night with the King is about the story of Queen Esther, which is taken from the Old Testament, and has grossed $13 million in the US since its release in October. It is made by the same company that produced Carman: The Champion and The Omega Code.

One Night with the King.

End of the Spear is set in the Amazonian jungle where missionaries take the Gospel. A failing football coach’s rekindling of faith in God, in spite of obstacles, is the impetus for hope in Facing the Giants. In view of these movies not seeing the light of day, or the darkness of cinema house, I raised the idea of a festival in New Zealand screening Christian-financed and themed movies.

Mr. Bradley is keen. He is unaware of there ever being a Christian film festival before.

But “it has the possibility of capturing people’s attention. The idea of a small Christian themed film festival would be really interesting. In fact I think it’s a terrific idea.”

Promoting one film at a time to what is already a small target audience for Christian films is cost prohibitive, he says. However, “the beauty of the festival idea is that you are spending the same cost over six or more films, so the likelihood of the event covering its costs is higher.”

Information and policy manager David Wilson, of the information unit of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, concurs somewhat by explaining that film festivals can apply to the Chief Censor for a partial waiver of classification fees in situations where the fees would be unduly burdensome or unfair. 

Mr Bradley says there is something a bit more attention-grabbing about a film festival than promoting a single film.

“A film festival attracts the attention of film buffs as well as the general audience and becomes an event of note in itself.

“If any particular film is significantly more successful at the festival than the others, then there is always the possibility it could roll out into general release. That happens quite regularly in film festivals, they act almost as a test market for a wider release.

“My advice would be to get a major mega church in each area behind the festival and then the smaller churches can fall in behind them.

“It has the potential, I think, to be pretty successful and I would be interested in helping – at least on an advisory level if not more.”

By Peter Veugelaers. 

Published 2006, Challenge Weekly

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