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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

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Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success

By Steve Rabey (May 25, 2003)

Christian musicians like Michael W. Smith, Kirk Franklin and Steven Curtis Chapman have experienced success in secular markets for years. Christian books are a growing presence in mainstream stores. In 2001, Desecration, one of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind novels, and Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez were America’s best-selling hardcover fiction and nonfiction titles. Until recently, however, Christian films have failed to connect with unchurched viewers or established movie critics. But that’s all changing.

Last fall, Big Idea Productions, the Illinois company that has sold more than 20 million VeggieTales videos — primarily in the Christian market — made Christian movie history by opening Jonah, its first full-length theatrical production, on more than 1,000 screens nationwide. The film garnered respectful reviews in many mainstream publications. It earned more than $25 million en route to landing in the top-100 grossing movies for 2002, thanks in part to an established market of VeggieTales fans.

This year, Namesake Entertainment, of Louisville, Ky., a company involved in two earlier Left Behind movies, plans to release Hangman’s Curse nationwide. The film is based on a youth-oriented suspense novel written by best-selling Christian author Frank Peretti. Peretti hopes the film will show that the quality of Christian films is improving.

“Historically, Christians have had a really strong bias against films and Hollywood,” says Peretti, who spent last June visiting the Spokane, Wash., set where his book was being turned into a film. “And when they have tried to make movies, these have been more like evangelistic tracts than the kinds of things [the general public wants] to spend their money to go see.”

In the 1980s some believers began working to build bridges between Christians and Hollywood. Los Angeles-area ministries such as Mastermedia International, Media Fellowship International and Ted Baehr’s Christian Film and Television Commission, helped champion Christian themes in films and offered support to believers who worked in the industry. The Los Angeles Film Studies Center, a program of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, taught college students how to break into the industry and enabled many students to work as interns for Hollywood firms.

One of the most tangible results of these bridge-building efforts was Hollywood’s increasing emphasis on marketing faith-affirming films to the Christian community. In the 1980s, movies such as Chariots of Fire and The Mission were heavily promoted to the evangelical community.

The recently released Gods and Generals, a $60 million Civil War film financed by media mogul Ted Turner, has won the plaudits of numerous Christian film critics. The movie was marketed directly to churches, including a Bible study tie-in available from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Groups such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have been producing evangelistic films for decades. But the producers of Hangman’s Curse, a mystery film with spiritual elements about the unintended consequences of teen cruelty, are more intent on effective storytelling than on making a hard-sell salvation appeal. “Our goal is to produce family-based, morally based entertainment that is on par with what secular audiences are used to seeing,” says Joe Goodman, co-owner of Namesake Entertainment.


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