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'Home Run' movie garners support

home run movieTouted by its filmmakers as "a game-changing movie," Home Run opens today in approximately 400 theaters across the country.

Christian retail chains have gotten behind the movie and several best-selling Christian authors have endorsed Home Run, which highlights Celebrate Recovery—a 12-step addiction recovery program based on Christian principles that grew out of Southern California's Saddleback Church and is now found in churches worldwide.

Produced by Impact Productions, the faith-based movie is about an alcoholic baseball hotshot who finds redemption in an unlikely place.

"It won't be the only game in town at movie theaters," the film's Facebook page said. "However, it will be the one film reminding moviegoers that with God, freedom is possible."

The film won the Best Feature Film and Best Inspirational Film categories of the inaugural Resonate Film Festival during the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando, Fla., last summer. David C Cook released a novelization by Travis Thrasher of the movie with the same title last month.

"Home Run is a powerful story of the redemption of our past, present and future for the glory of God," Family Christian President and CEO Cliff Bartow said. "This timeless message is delivered through a baseball story and a man's key relationships. We can all relate at some level to parts of this story, which makes this movie so compelling."

Both the Parable Group and LifeWay Christian Stores encouraged customers, via their Facebook pages, to watch the movie. The film has been heavily marketed to the faith-based community, especially through pastors' screenings.

"Home Run reminds us of the power of forgiveness, the richness of redemption and the wisdom of trusting God to revive us," said pastor and author Max Lucado.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author, called the movie "a film of great hope."

Megachurch pastor and author Joel Osteen said, "Home Run is a must-see story of change and redemption—a story all of us need to hear and know," while Bible teacher and author Joyce Meyer noted that the movie "portrays the church in its beauty—true life transformation through real and honest relationships with one another and with Jesus."

Samuel Goldwyn Films and Provident Films have partnered in the marketing and distribution of the film. Their previous faith-based movie partnerships included Fireproof, October Baby and Facing the Giants.

Article courtesy Christian Retailing

Religious e-books excel while print declines

ipad1Maintaining an upward trend in e-book sales, religious presses reported a more than 20% increase for all of 2012 versus January-December 2011, with sales of more than $57 million, according to the latest figures available from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Overall, religious book sales for 2012 versus 2011 saw a more than 5% drop to $576.6 million.

For the month of December, religious presses saw hardcover sales decline more than 22% compared to December 2011. Religious paperback sales also decreased 25% in December 2012, while e-books were up 2.6%.

Religious paperback sales experienced a more than 16% decrease for all of 2012 versus January-December 2011, with sales of more than $171 million. In the same date range, religious hardcover sales were down more than 3%, with sales of more than $294 million.

With nearly 1,200 publishers reporting, AAP's Monthly StatShot report included data from Crossway, Gospel Light, Moody Publishers, David C Cook, Thomas Nelson and Tyndale House Publishers, among others represented by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

Article courtesy Christian Retailing

Miniseries on History Channel arouses renewed curiosity in the bible

HalSeedjpg11-00The Bible, a ten-part miniseries on the History Channel has drawn more than 14 million viewers in each of the last two weeks. No other cable show can claim these kinds of ratings in 2013. Produced by Mark Burnett (best known for Survivor, The Apprentice, and Shark Tank), and his wife, Touched by an Angel actor Roma Downey, the series has already far exceeded the expectations of the husband-wife duo who hope it will reignite an interest in all things biblical.

While the miniseries enjoys initial widespread support within the evangelical community, it also expectedly has its critics. "The characters are just as one-dimensional as the ones described in a Sunday school fable, only angrier," says Businessweek.

"The second week of History Channel's The Bible miniseries may not have delivered the ratings rapture of the last week's record-breaking premiere, but the two-hour telecast still had holier-than-thou numbers" says Entertainment Weekly.

The critics notwithstanding, more than a few evangelicals are pleased to see new interest in the bestselling book of all time. Dr. Hal Seed, the author of recently released The Bible Questions (Intervarsity Press) simplifies the overarching purpose of the Bible; "God wants us to see and understand the world through his eyes because he created us to live the best life possible here and in eternity." But Seed's assessment is not based in a pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking but in looking at the facts of the Bible.

Seed says the Bible is utterly unique in that it spans 1,500 years and contains sixty-six books by more than forty writers. In terms of overall accuracy, the Bible is hands down the most accurate literature in all of history. While recognizing there will always be critics, Seed is grateful for the resurgence in biblical interest.

The founding pastor of New Song Church (Oceanside, CA), his congregation has been at the forefront of encouraging evangelicals to take biblical truths into the mainstream media. In 2010 New Song produced the motion picture, To Save a Life.

The Bible Questions came from the same motivation that Burnett and Downey created the miniseries; to help readers or viewers understand the Bible in ways they've never experienced. "One-half of all Americans believe the Bible is hard to understand," says Seed. "My purpose in writing was to make the Bible easy to understand." If Seed succeeds, the momentum from the miniseries may well lead to renewed interest in the Bible. "It's something everybody should know," says Roma Downey about the Bible.

"And the place to begin is by developing a focus and curiosity in what God reveals about himself through the Bible which is our pathway to truly knowing him. "The most striking thing about the Bible," says Seed, "is people who begin reading it never stop reading it."

Studios work to bring Jesus back to the big screen

The-Bible-Jesus-desert-The-History-ChannelSeveral competing Jesus movie projects are in the works, including one from the grandson of the "Left Behind" series co-author Tim LaHaye.

"It's been nine years since Mel Gibson's crucifixion drama, The Passion of The Christ, grossed $612 million worldwide," The Hollywood Reporter observed. "Now, after several false starts, competing producers are attempting a natural follow-up about Christ's resurrection."

The "inside track" might belong to Tim LaHaye Productions, run by Randy LaHaye, grandson of Tim LaHaye, the trade publication of the entertainment industry reported.

Seven years ago, the Tim LaHaye reportedly had a deal with Sony's Screen Gems to produce The Resurrection from a screenplay by Lionel Chetwynd, but the movie was scrapped when Ben Feingold, Sony's then-president of home entertainment, was ousted in 2006.

Since then, Randy LaHaye has raised $20 million through private equity, and he plans to shoot the Chetwynd script next year for release around Easter 2015, The Hollywood Reporter reported.

"Our goal is to shoot some of it in Israel, where Jesus walked and the disciples spoke to one another," Randy LaHaye said.

Meanwhile, American Trademark Pictures, which has $30 million to produce and $45 million from FilmCrest—the company that provided the initial funding for The Passion of The Christ—plans to release The Resurrection of the Christ. The title, though, could change to Golgotha, a reference to the place where Jesus was crucified, and the movie could be the first installment in a trilogy.

"Ours is a Ridley Scott, Gladiator approach told from the perspective of the Romans," Producer Bill McKay told The Hollywood Reporter.

A nonprofit called In Jesus' Name Productions is working on The Messiah, a film exploring "the events surrounding Jesus' death, resurrection and Pentecost." Slated for a 2015 release, the movie is from Executive Producer David Wood, who is seeking to raise $25 million through a crowd-funding campaign that asks 1 million Christians to give $25 apiece to become "spiritual producers."

"All the resurrection movies use the Bible as source material, but ours will rely more on special effects," Wood said. "We'll even show heaven and hell and see what's going on there."

A non-resurrection film, Mary Mother of Christ, will be executive-produced by pastor and author Joel Osteen and distributed by Lionsgate.

Article courtesy Christian Retailing

Greg Kinnear in talks to star in 'Heaven Is for Real' movie

heavenisforrealthomasnelson croppedActor Greg Kinnear is in negotiations to star in the movie adaptation of Todd Burpo's runaway best-selling book, Heaven Is for Real (Thomas Nelson), The Hollywood Reporter reported.

Published in November 2010, Burpo's account of his young son Colton's near-death experience of heaven has sold more than 8 million copies in the past two years. Translated into more than 30 languages, Heaven Is for Real has spent more than two years on the New York Times Paperback Nonfiction best-seller list, including 17 consecutive weeks ranked at No. 1.

Kinnear would play Todd Burpo, a small-town pastor in Nebraska. Kinnear's acting credits include The Last Song and As Good As It Gets, which garnered him an Oscar nomination for his supporting role.

Randall Wallace—who wrote the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart and directed Secretariat—is directing Heaven Is for Real, which will be produced by Joe Roth (Oz the Great and Powerful) and T.D. Jakes—pastor at The Potter's House in Dallas, best-selling author and co-producer of the movie Jumping the Broom, The Hollywood Reporter reported.

Wallace also wrote the novel, The Touch (Tyndale House Publishers). Heaven Is for Real's "true story and message of hope through the eyes of a child has already brought comfort and inspiration to millions," said Matt Baugher, senior vice president and publisher of Thomas Nelson's recently resurrected imprint W Publishing Group. "The film will do the same."

Heaven Is for Real is being overseen at Sony Pictures' TriStar division, led by DeVon Franklin, author of Produced by Faith: Enjoy Real Success Without Losing Your True Self (Howard Books). No production or release date has been announced for the movie.

Article courtesy of Christian Retailing

'America the Beautiful' hits No. 1 on 'NY Times' lists

america-the-beautiful-jpgDr. Ben Carson's America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great (Zondervan) ranked high in three categories of the New York Times best-sellers list for the week of March 17.

Released January 2012, the book was No. 1 on the Paperback Nonfiction and Paperback Combined (Nonfiction Print and E-Book) lists, and No. 3 on the Nonfiction Hardcover list. Since its release, America the Beautiful has appeared 23 times on the New York Times best-sellers list.

In America the Beautiful, Carson, a highly regarded neurosurgeon, examines how the U.S. changed the world, and ways to reclaim its standing as a free and prosperous nation.

"What an honor it is to know that America the Beautiful resonates with so many readers today," Carson said. "This says to me that the state of our nation is not going unnoticed and citizens want our political leaders to lean on God's Word for answers, not their own. I truly believe that America's best days are still ahead, and we must use our God-given talents to improve our lives, communities and our world."

Zondervan Vice President and Publisher of Trade Tracy Danz added: "We are thrilled with the success of this title and the continued support Ben is receiving across this nation. His desire to live a life that God calls him to lead is inspirational to me, and I truly believe that this book can help change lives."

Carson drew cheers last month at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., when he criticized the Obama administration's tax policies and healthcare overhaul as the president observed. Carson was also the featured speaker at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, held March 14-16 in Oxon Hill, Md., where he hinted at political aspirations that could even include running for the presidency.

Article courtesy of Christian Retailing

Miracles reported on set of Bible miniseries

Bible-roma-downeyThe hit miniseries The Bible is setting records on cable television for the History Channel, with as many as 13 million viewers tuning in for the blockbuster. But certain aspects of the filming were even more remarkable, as producer Mark Burnett reports highly unusual occurrences behind-the-scenes that he labels miracles.

The epic five-part series, which runs through Easter, is the most-watched entertainment program on cable television, according to ABC's Good Morning America.

The show has many celebrities following it, including rapper and actor L L Cool J, actress Lisa Rinna, and even Oprah, according to ABC. Oprah tweeted throughout the most recent episode several times, particularly about Samson: "Samson distracted by Delilah. fatal flaw," she noted. Oprah's interest and involvement may boost the ratings even higher.

R & B superstar Cee Lo Green's musical addition to the production is also attracting a younger audience, giving a fresh new feel to a time-honored story.

The making of the TV behemoth was filled with strange happenings that Producer Mark Burnett can't quite explain. When the actor who portrays Jesus told Nicodemus "The Holy Spirit is like the wind," a strong rushing wind that felt like the exhaust behind a 747 almost blew the set over and sustained for 20 seconds, Burnett told Entertainment Weekly.

"Everyone just looked at everyone like, 'What just happened?'" Burnett said.

The production – filmed in Morocco — also hired a 'snake wrangler' to make sure that dangerous reptiles did not get near the actors, and he usually found one or two snakes each day.

However, on the day the momentous crucifixion scene was filmed, the snake expert found an unprecedented 48 venomous snakes crawling around their re-created Golgotha – the place where Jesus defeated Satan, who is often depicted in Scripture as a snake.

When the baptism of Jesus was filmed in a reservoir, the producers were alarmed when part of the actor's unique costume came off and floated away.

"Four days later, a kid showed up from many, many, many miles away, who had been seeking us through the desert to return this to us," Burnett told Entertainment Weekly. "He didn't know what it was why he should seek us, but he felt he had to return it."

The series will air its final installment on March 31, Easter Sunday.

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