'Ten Commandments' film launches series
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Parents hungry for family friendly movie options in a theater setting finally may have an answer, and it comes from a new company with ambitious goals.
The company is Promenade Pictures and its first movie is "The Ten Commandments," which will be released Friday and is the first in a 12-part computer-animated movie series dubbed "Epic Stories of the Bible." "Noah's Ark -- The New Beginning" is halfway through production and will be released next year, and a film about David and Goliath is in the early planning stages. All are fully funded and will be released in theaters, Promenade officials say.
Live-action films also are planned, the first of which will be "Gideon's Gift," based on Karen Kingsbury's novel, followed by a movie on the life of Salvation Army founder William Booth.
Promenade was founded in 2003 in part by Frank Yablans -- the former president of Paramount and CEO of MGM/UA -- with the sole goal of producing movies based on Judeo-Christian values.
Yablans and others no doubt hope the movies will find a market for families who enjoy theatrical releases -- along with the popcorn, drinks and large-screen environment -- but struggle to find films clean enough to support. Unlike some Christian movies that go straight to DVD, Promenade's films will first release in theaters, company officials say. Film budgets will range from $5 million to $20 million.
"I'm a member of the audience that is so hungry to see these kinds of movies," Promenade President Cindy Bond told Baptist Press. "In fact, that's how I started in this because as a believer I was very disappointed in the kind of movies that Hollywood was producing. I wanted to see movies made that would inspire people and give them hope -- all within an entertaining context, of course. Here we are with the most powerful tool in the world, which is the media, and I wanted to use it to glorify God."
A veteran in the family movie industry, Bond served as producer of The Ten Commandments, which has its share of well-known Hollywood talent. Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley is the narrator, Christian Slater is the voice of Moses and Elliott Gould is the voice of God.
It is being released nearly 10 years after another animated film based on the life of Moses, DreamWorks' "The Prince of Egypt," was released. The two films, though, have significant differences. While The Prince of Egypt essentially ends with the Israelites crossing the Red Seas, The Ten Commandments follows the Israelites through their disobedience at Mount Sinai and ends with them entering the Promised Land. Additionally, Ten Commandments is more biblically based. For instance, Aaron and Moses together go before Pharaoh; in Prince of Egypt, Moses went alone.
The movie is being released days after a poll showed that American adults are more familiar with the ingredients of a McDonald's Big Mac than they are with the Ten Commandments. For instance, 80 percent of the 1,000 people polled knew that "two all beef patties" were an ingredient of the hamburger, although only 45 percent knew that "Honor thy father and mother" was one of the commandments. Twenty-five percent of adults could name all the ingredients of the Big Mac, compared to 14 percent who could name all Ten Commandments. The poll was conducted in September by Kelton Research for the Ten Commandments Commission.
"This is a call to action," said Bond, who was saved young at a Billy Graham Crusade. "We want these movies to be the tool to get people reignited who already know about these stories. And for those that don't know about them, to get them interested and get them back in the Bible to get their lives prioritized."
The fact that Promenade's first picture is being released a full four years after its founding is significant, Bond said.
"After we founded the company we stayed under the radar because we were getting the work done," she said. "We felt as soon as we had a movie complete and another one in production that we would then come out and do all the press, which is contrary to the way Hollywood works. In fact, our entire company is contrary to the way Hollywood traditionally works."
In addition to the aforementioned movies, Promenade's website lists seven additional films -- most of them live action -- it has on the drawing board.
"We are building a modern-day Buena-Vista," Bond said. "It's a full-service production, marketing and distribution company, because we want to be the destination point for films that will embrace these types of values."
Promenade's theatrical launch comes one year after 20th Century Fox started FoxFaith, a distribution label for faith-themed DVD and theatrical movies. FoxFaith began with the goal of releasing at least six movies in theaters each year but almost certainly won't hit that mark this year. It had three theatrical releases earlier this year but hasn't put a movie in theaters since March's "The Ultimate Gift." Additionally, its website is not promoting any new releases for theaters. FoxFaith's movies did mostly sub-par in the theaters, although DVD sales have performed much better, Christianity Today's website reported earlier this month in a story about the ups and downs of the label's first year.
"We're alive and well," Steve Feldstein, senior vice president of Fox Home Entertainment, which oversees FoxFaith, told Christianity Today. "We are very much in the business."
Bond believes Promenade has the budget, infrastructure and marketing in place to succeed.
"FoxFaith was birthed out of a home video model," she said, adding she respects what that label has done. "We're a theatrical motion picture company."
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press. "The Ten Commandments" is approximately 90 minutes in length and rated PG for mild peril. For information visit www.10CommandmentsMovie.com.