Tuesday, September 19, 2006


New Fox Unit to Produce Christian Films

The studio plans to produce as many as 12 movies a year aimed at religious audiences.

By Lorenza Muñoz
Times Staff Writer
Posted September 19 2006

Sep 19, 2006

In the biggest commitment of its sort by a Hollywood studio, News Corp.'s Fox Filmed Entertainment is expected to unveil plans today to capture the gargantuan Christian audience that made "The Passion of the Christ" a global phenomenon.

The home entertainment division of Rupert Murdoch's movie studio plans to produce as many as a dozen films a year under a banner called FoxFaith. At least six of those films will be released in theaters under an agreement with two of the nation's largest chains, AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas.

The first theatrical release, called "Love's Abiding Joy," is scheduled to hit the big screen Oct. 6. The movie, which cost about $2 million to make, is based on the fourth installment of Christian novelist Janette Oke's popular series, "Love Comes Softly."

Over the last four years, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has quietly built a network to mobilize evangelical Christian moviegoers in an era of diminishing box-office returns. The network includes 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. Although that is skimpy compared with the $36 million Hollywood spends to market the average movie, the budget is significant for targeting a niche audience, especially one as fervent as many evangelical Christians.

"The Passion" grossed $612 million
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion..." took in $745
"The Da Vinci Code," which has brought in $754 million worldwide.

But what really propelled the idea of devoting a label to Christian titles was Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." The film's success stunned Hollywood and confirmed Fox executives' hunches about the Christian market.

In preparation for its theatrical debut, FoxFaith partnered with the Dove Foundation, a nonprofit organization that monitors "wholesome" family entertainment. Dove agreed to place its seal of approval on some FoxFaith films.

In February, Yordy unveiled the FoxFaith logo at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, bringing the normally skeptical crowd to its feet. Seeing the label on the big screen formalized the commitment from Fox, Yordy said.

Outside the studio system

Here are key movies produced by Christians outside the Hollywood studio system:

Title, Release date: Domestic box-office gross (in millions)

The Passion of the Christ, 2004: $370.8

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2005: $291.7

Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, 2002: $25.6

The Omega Code, 1999: $12.6

End of the Spear, 2006: $11.7

Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, 2001: $6.0

Luther, 2003: $5.8

The Other Side of Heaven, 2001: $4.7

Left Behind, 2001: $4.2

China Cry: A True Story, 1990: $4.2

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