Christian Films Market For the Big Leagues

Nov 04, 2002 03:00 AM EST

LOS ANGELES--Recently, many Christian movies have succeeded at box offices. Canada’s Cloud Ten Pictures joined this search for profits in its video release of “Left Behind II: Tribulation Force” this Tuesday. This film seeks to attract the mainstream audience with its wars, plagues, seven years of tribulation and a final battle between Christ and the Anti-Christ.

Peter Lalonde, co-founder of Cloud Ten is searching through major studios for investors who would take this independent Christian film to a major hit. His goal is to make Cloud Ten as successful as Disney or Miramax, marking the growth of Christian themes in mainstream entertainment. He envisions Cloud Ten to be the first of a recent wave of faith-based companies to link to a major studio.

"Eighty million people out there consider themselves evangelical Christians. We've tapped into a portion of that market already," Lalonde said. "Every major publisher now has a Christian imprint. (Music companies) have bought up Christian labels. I think the same thing is about to happen in movies."

The greatest obstacle faced by the studio is the lack of Christian film history to base an investment decision on. However, the recent success of Christian Contemporary Music and books on the market has helped support Lalonde’s case.

Books including “Left Behind” and “The Remnant” by Jerry Jenkins and Tim La Haye, which have debuted last summer has sold over 50 million copies. “Desecration,” by the same authors was 2001’s best selling book.

Christian bands such as Jars of Clay and Creed has successfully crossed over to the mainstream in the 1990s.

Since 1999’s “The Omega Code,” several producers like Lalonde have tried to gain the same victory in the area of films. They create films the “espouse Christian views” but are filled with the special effects, comedy, romance, and action for the mainstream who are “tired of the violence and sex” in Hollywood films.

Though studio sources are still skeptical of the appeal of Christian films to the general audience, the recent successes of Christian movies in video stores and theaters shows otherwise.

"The good thing is, now, it's not so difficult to demonstrate we are not just a flash in the pan," said Lalonde.

In 2000, Cloud Ten's "Left Behind” earned only $4.2 million in theaters, however, it made a gross of $90 million including video sales. Compared to the mere $17.4 investment made in the film, Cloud Ten has made a considerable amount of profit. “Tribulation Force,” the sequel to “Left Behind” reached No.1 in pre-sales according to

Retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. have agreed to sell Cloud Ten’s DVDs and Videos on their market, greatly increasing its growth potential. Through grass roots marketing, Lalonde hopes to increase the screen count for “Tribulation” force which is set to debut on theaters December 31.

By Pauline J.