Jesus and Hollywood: How Sherwood Pictures Has Caused the Rise of the Christian Movie Franchise

Albany, Georgia is the official Christian Hollywood of the Southeast.

It used to be unthinkable that a truly Christian movie could make it to the big screen.  So it was even more ridiculous to think about a Christian movie making tens of millions in profit: Fireproof was made on a budget of $500,000 and had a gross revenue of $33,456,317. But now, thanks to Sherwood Pictures of the megachurch Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia, we might as well expect a new Christian movie to hit theaters every couple of years.

On September 30, 2011, the creators of Fireproof (and Facing the Giants) will be unleashing their newest movie, Courageous. Sorry, Kirk Cameron isn’t in this one. The plot line revolves around four policemen who must learn to apply the same courage they use everyday on the work force in the delicate yet crucial situations that a parent must encounter when raising a child.  I remember when Kirk Cameron’s first Christian movie came out in 2000, Left Behind: The Movie. People from my church promoted it saying, “Come on people, we need to send a message to Hollywood that these are the kinds of movies that people want to see and will pay to see.”  And now, over a decade later, our culture is at a curious enough and open-minded enough point to actually support Christian cinema.

Granted, it’s safe to say that many of us who went to the theatre to see Fireproof had realistic expectations that the acting would be on an amateur level.  And with the exceptions of Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea (who played his wife), our expectations were met.  Even so, I admit that the message of Fireproof really got to me, despite the “hey, you go to this church… want to be in a movie?” type of casting process.  So I say if a Christian movie can make $33 million dollars despite a desperately small budget, despite using actors with basically no experience, and despite being filmed and directed by a volunteer based production company which is simply a ministry of a church, I’d say I can’t really knock it.

I might even say it’s a bit of a phenomenon.  Sure, Sherwood Pictures could eventually release a real stinker of a movie and therefore end their winning streak; maybe even one so bad that people would stop going to the theatre to see their newest efforts.  But considering that critics outside the church didn’t give Fireproof generally positive reviews for the most part, it’s almost as if we’re all learning that the secular critics’ reviews are simply irrelevant when Christians can make a movie which not only draws in unchurched ticket buyers, but also one that when on to become the greatest grossing independent film of 2008.

Lesson learned thanks to Sherwood Pictures: Enough people will trade top-notch production and professional acting for a movie that to them, even if in their own religious sub-culture, has a new message and is simply relevant.

Firefighters are to marriage problems as policemen are to parenthood.  First Fireproof, now Courageous; what will be the next big idea in Christian entertainment?  I have a few ideas…

Sherwood Pictures should try taking their talents to the small screen:

Christ’s Anatomy

What part of the body are you?

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12: 27

In this powerful new medical drama, Kirk Cameron stars as “Dr. McBeamy”, the strongest light at Albany Baptist Medical Center.  Watch as he mentors the interns in The Way of the Master while still finding time to actually care for his patients.  Also stars his real life wife Chelsea Noble as his wife on the show, so that he can actually kiss her onscreen, unlike his onscreen wife Erin Bethea at the end of Fireproof.

Devoted Preachers’ Wives

You think being happily married to a pastor of a Baptist Church isn’t full of drama?  Think again.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 30

From warding off church gossip to making sure her preacher husband’s pinstripe suit and tassel-topped loafers are ready for the pulpit, Candace Cameron Bure (the real life sister of Kirk Cameron) plays Eve Appleton, a faithful mother and wife who finds comfort in the Christian fellowship of her close circle of friends, all who also happen to be preachers’ wives and amazing supermoms.

The Bridegroom

Will you accept this W.W.J.D. bracelet?

“But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold! The bridgeroom is coming!  Come out to meet him!’ -Matthew 25: 6

What happens when 25 single and virtuous Christian young women are put in a church with one single and virtuous Christian young man?  Eventually marriage; between one man and one woman.  They’re all looking for love, and surprisingly all for the right reasons! Watch as Ben Wilder, the Bridegroom, takes his contestants on mission trips to exotic destinations like Guatemala and Honduras in a 15 passenger bus (the budget would not allow for helicopters) to find out who shows the best example of the Christian faith, eventually winning his heart.  All to the background soundtrack of Point of Grace.  She who wins the bridegroom’s heart will earn the final W.W.W.J bracelet and a worthy husband.

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