Over the last few years, there’s been a fairly quiet development in the film industry, one which highlights faith-based stories. The other day I found out about a documentary film which looks at the state of religion in America, with the unique pitch of turning places of worship into its world premiere theaters.
It was passed along to me via the vast mailing list of Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices organization, but Santorum’s EchoLight Studios has put together a documentary called “One Generation Away.” The title borrows from the Reagan speech where he warned freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. Naturally, the film has its naysayers from the secular community, but those who have a basis in their faith must feel like persecuted second-class citizens these days.
Yet given the obvious role of church as gathering place and the investments many have made in their own theatrical-quality audio and video systems, the Santorum strategy of pitching the documentary and other upcoming EchoLight movies as something to be seen at a church (as opposed to a regular theater) has some merit. As they sell it:
Imagine premiering world class, redemptive films in your church, building community within and reaching outside the four walls to engage those within your city.
First of all, while many may balk at being seen going to a theater which is playing that movie, how many would even go to a church to watch it? You could accuse the filmmakers of preaching to the choir, but it seems to me that’s what they want to do. There will be some small percentage of viewers who might become churchgoers thanks to the screening, but it will likely be the fellowship which attracts them moreso than the content of the movie drawing any new worshipers back. I could see this being akin to a long sermon, one which doesn’t focus on a particular Biblical passage, but the concept of religious freedom in America circa 2014. Notice the artwork depicting a church standing on the precipice – it’s obvious those who created the film feel like they’re under attack from the secular side of society.
One other advantage of this sort of marketing is that they don’t have to fall under Hollywood’s rules on what constitutes a successful movie. If “One Generation Away” had gone into theatrical release and grossed, say, $2 million its first weekend, the conventional wisdom would be it was on the bomb on the scale of these from last year. Certainly there would be some cost involved for patrons, but it’s likely the distributor won’t mind a loss on OGA in the hope to make some back on video sales and build a market for future films. It’s not like the OGA movie had a large budget to begin with.
So I checked into the distribution locally and found the movie wasn’t slated for any area locations, even as the premiere period began September 1 (it runs through November 28.) More than likely, though, some area church will be interested enough to give it a try.
But the question remains: with Judeo-Christian values under assault from popular culture and the government, is it all up to the Millennial Generation to keep the flame of religious liberty alight? We need more than a movie to answer the question, but hopefully some hearts and minds will be changed.