450461553EchoLight Studios, the faith- and family-based production entity headed by self-professed Christian politician and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, said it will distribute four films a year starting in September 2014 then one a quarter after that. But here’s the twist: The films will be playing in churches throughout the country instead of theaters. One of those films is Hoovey, starring Patrick Warburton (Rules Of Engagement) and Lauren Holly — a true story about a Midwestern basketball family who, with God’s help, stayed in the game and won. Audrey's Shower patrick warburtonThe film is an unlikely candidate for the nation’s theaters to begin with, but there is a larger goal for Santorum, who is the CEO and not in politics any longer — to bring in flocks to the churches. “We want to be a part of empowering the church to elevate its role as a cultural change agent,” EchoLight President Studios Jeff Sheets said in a statement. “Our vision is not to create sermons wrapped in a movie but to create content that inspires, fascinates and incorporates a strong Christian worldview.”
Uh, that’s taking the faith-based craze to a different level — using churches as theaters. The Franklin, TN-based company is developing content with “strong ministry value as tools for the Church to use in their in-reach and outreach ministries.” They also said that a portion of the revenues generated from these films will “fuel the missional needs of the hosting local church.” So instead of the money going into Hollywood coffers, it’s going back to Santorum’s churches. And therein lies the business model.
“EchoLight wants to empower the church to bring in people to see films,” EchoLight Studios spokeswoman Kristin Cole told Deadline. “3-14-Gods-Not-DeadThey want good, family content, and this ensures that. A lot of these churches are already equipped with the HD cameras.” This comes as the success of two faith-based films has surprised Hollywood already this year. The first was Fox’s Son Of God, which was re-cut from History’s miniseries The Bible, along with new footage; it opened at $25.6M and since has grossed $59M. The second was God’s Not Dead which has continued to play in the Box Office Top Ten after four weeks in release. On a $2M budget and another roughly $2M spent to bring to market, the film has grossed $40.8M. Smartly distributed by Freestyle Releasing, by the way. Both of those films are still in the Top 20. And then there’s the big-budgeted Noah from Paramount which has grabbed $84.9M domestically.  This weekend will see the bow of Heaven is For Real from director Randall Wallace and starring Greg Kinnear. The movie is based on the bestselling book of the same name about the four-year-old boy named Colton who had a near-death experience and then started recounting seeing people in Heaven — including his great grandfather and also unborn sister (whom his mother has miscarried) — relatives he clearly had never met or knew about before but recognized.
candle5EchoLight Studios produces, directs, funds and distributes faith-based films. EchoLight Cinemas’ first pic is One Generation Away, a faith-based documentary, with tickets to begin pre-selling June 1. After that it will re-release The Christmas Candle, which starred Samantha Barks (Les Miserables), James Cosmo (Games Of Thrones) and Britain’s Got Talent’s Susan Boyle in her acting debut. It previously bowed last year in limited release in about 300 screens across the country. Hoovey is the next film and there will one more after that.