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Movies made by Christians in the United States are not finding distribution in New Zealand, but the solution could be a small Christian-themed festival.

At least five movies made by Christians in the United States have not found a distributor in New Zealand.

Two of the movies, Hoot and How to Eat Fried Worms, were made by Walden Media, a company founded in the U.S. by a Christian entrepreneur. Walden Media makes educational movies from children’s book adaptations.

The other three movies, One Night with the King, Facing the Giants, and End of the Spear, contain a high faith in God-quotient, but are not finding a release in New Zealand.

However, bigger Walden movies, such as blockbusters The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Charlotte’s Web, found a theatrical release in New Zealand.

Film producers Grant Bradley and John Davies considered distributing End of the Spear in partnership between their companies Allegro Pictures and Arkles Entertainment. They had both viewed the movie but felt it was not good enough to attract an audience.

Mr. Bradley is familiar with the sports faith-based film Facing the Giants, which is about a failing football coach’s rekindling of faith in God in spite of obstacles.

“The other three I don’t know, although One Night with the King rings a bell, but I can’t recall anything specific,” Mr. Bradley said.

One Night with the King is about the story of Queen Esther, which is taken from the Old Testament. The film grossed $13 million in the United States since its release in October.

One Night with the King is made by the same company that produced Carman: The Champion and The Omega Code.

Hoyts Distribution NZ Ltd informed that they will not deliver any of the above titles.

Film Manager of Reading Cinemas Hadyn Smith said he had not seen any of the titles on the release schedules for the major film distribution companies in New Zealand.

“At this stage I do not think that we will be screening any of them,” Mr Smith said.

Distributor Rialto Entertainment did not reply to an email message asking whether they will distribute any of the five films.

The production company behind End of the Spear is offering their film as a ministry opportunity. On their website, performance licenses are available for Spear and another title, Beyond the Gates of Splendour. The site says the licenses allow the holder the right to host a public exhibition for the selected film. “They are a great tool for your school, church or organization to use in meetings and special events”, the site adds.

In view of these movies not seeing the light of day in New Zealand I raised the idea of a film festival screening Christian-financed and themed movies.

Mr. Bradley is keen. He is unaware of there ever being a Christian film festival in New Zealand before.

“It has the possibility of capturing people’s attention. The idea of a small ‘Christian themed film festival’ would be really interesting. In fact I think it’s a terrific idea.

“A film festival attracts the attention of film buffs as well as the general audience and becomes an event of note in itself.”

Promoting one film at a time to what is already a small target audience for Christian films is cost prohibitive, he says. Film festivals can apply to the Chief Censor for a partial waiver of classification fees in situations where the fees would be unduly burdensome or unfair.

Mr. Bradley adds that if any particular film is significantly more successful at the festival than the others then there is always the possibility it could roll out into general release.

He says this happens quite regularly in film festivals. Festivals act almost as a test market for a wider release.

He advises to get a major mega church in each area behind the festival. “The smaller churches can fall in behind them. It has the potential, I think, to be pretty successful and I would be interested in helping – at least on an advisory level if not more.”

[First published in Challenge Weekly]

[Picture of ‘One Night with the King’]

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