Churches to Play Key Role in Next Left Behind' Flick
- Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
- 2005 9 Sep
”Don’t throw popcorn, silence your cell phone, and be courteous to those around you in the church.” No, that should not read “theater.” On October 21, 2005, thousands will view Left Behind: World at War at a local church instead of a cinema – for the first time ever.
This entirely new distribution system will not only challenge fundamental Hollywood rules, but also provide churches with an enormous opportunity for outreach into their local communities.
“In the 70’s and 80’s, before the days of VHS, 16MM church film nights were one of the greatest ways that churches could introduce non-believers to their church,” notes Cloud Ten’s co-CEO Peter Lalonde. “We want to revive that outreach.”
Currently, churches and ministries all over the country are signing up to participate in this groundbreaking event.
For Lalonde there is passion behind the vision. He first set foot in a gospel church in 1983 to watch The Prodigal. “It was a Thursday night and I was moved by the pastors’ brief message after the film. I was back on Sunday…and the next Sunday. I became a believer the following Sunday and was a member of that church for eight years before relocating to another city.”
Today Lalonde understands both the spiritual and business side of Cloud Ten Pictures and the Left Behind film franchise. Brother and co-CEO Paul adds, “Our goal is to provide churches, and other Christian venues, with a well-supported, turn-key event that allows them to both reach out to their community and raise funds for their local ministries instead of pouring it into theaters’ coffers. Much like Mel did, we are going both within and outside the Hollywood system.”
Instead of renting out or buying all the seats in a theater, participating congregations will play the film in their churches with a DVD. They will pay a nominal license fee, and then designate their ‘box office take’ from ticket sales to benefit whatever program they desire, whether it be for missions, expansion or youth activities.
As it did with the with first Left Behind film, Cloud Ten will once again create a national story by re-writing the rule book on film release strategy. Think 200,000 plus Christian churches in America versus 5,000 theaters. A hi-tech proprietary website will service churches that are serving as opening weekend “screens,” individuals looking for a local theater to see the movie, fans wanting to stay informed, and media seeking updates on this innovative release method.
The film’s star and a strong Christian himself, Kirk Cameron loves the idea. ''It is something that has never been done before, but the idea of creating a distribution system that aims to open on as many screens as Hollywood’s biggest films is ingenious. If this works as we all wholeheartedly believe it will, then to access this new delivery method, Hollywood studios will have make good family films that are acceptable for pastors to show in their churches. It is the next step in the process after The Passion. This is how we can impact what Hollywood produces.”
Left Behind: World at War opens theatrically in churches the weekend of October 21-23. Churches may have as many screenings over than weekend as they wish. Then, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the DVD on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
While the distribution strategy may be new, Cloud Ten Pictures has kept the cast of leading characters intact. Kirk Cameron and his wife Chelsea Noble, Brad Johnson, Janaya Stephens and Gordon Currie all return and are joined by Academy Award™ winner Lou Gossett, Jr., who plays U.S. President Gerald Fitzhugh opposite Currie’s Nicolae Carpathia – self-appointed supreme ruler of the world.
“I’ve read a lot of scripts -- I’ve been doing this a long time -- and I have to pick and choose certain things,” says Lou Gossett, Jr. “I want to make an impression, spiritually, because that’s where I’ve arrived at. Not much is going to get me to come to Canada in the winter but this is a story that HAS to be told.”
“Signing on a respected, Oscar winning actor like Lou is a clear indicator of the new direction we seek to take with Christian film,” says producer Andre van Heerden. “And collaborating with the creative team at Sony has provided a different level of expertise in everything from casting, the script, the visual effects and the overall ‘feature film feel’ this project will have. Yet, the core Gospel message remains squarely in place.”
The Left Behind films are based on The New York Times #1 Best-Selling book of the same name. The series, which has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide, was written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, and follows the lives and struggles of those left behind on Earth after the rapture of the church as foretold in the Bible. Left Behind was named the “Best Selling Title of the Year by an Independent Studio” and the next film debuted on DVD second only to Spiderman.
To find out more about Left Behind: World at War or how to be a part of the opening weekend outreach, visit the project’s official website at www.leftbehind-worldatwar.com.