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Churches promote Graham biographical film

BillyGraham.jpgA story appeared today about the Billy Graham biographical film that we heard about back in April this year. Starring Martin Landau, Armie Hammer and Lindsay Wagner, Billy: The Early Years tells just that, how the religious man came to be who he is.

Personally it doesn't interest me, but what did grab my eye was the way it was being marketed, and how they aren't so interested in screening for critics and garnering reviews since the church is going to market it for them.

It seems a little strange to me that the religious network of a church would be used as an advertising medium, but since they are a business anyway I guess it's not really that much of a surprise. However I just can't shake the feeling that it's a little off, perhaps that's just my idealistic viewpoint.

According to newsobserver Billy: The Early Years is being shown to what the article calls...

“evangelical 'opinion makers' across the Bible Belt”

Which comes to around fifty screenings in all in the next few weeks, building a hype within the evangelical community regarding the film and hoping to capture the Christian film audience.

One such screening at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg attracted some four and a half thousand people.

The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia (Filmstalker review) have both been films that have benefited from the Christian community's positive praise and endorsement of the films, and as the article states superbly well:

“Good reviews from critics are nice, but the thumbs-up producers of Christian films want most these days are from pastors urging their flocks to head for the theater.”

What better endorsement for a film about a preacher than having your own preacher tell you that you should go and watch it while in the place of worship. Doug Phillips, the founder of the Christian Filmmakers Academy and the 5-year-old San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival

“Today, Christian filmmakers can count on a very savvy pastoral community that's looking to highlight films like these to their congregations”

Yeah, I get that, but at the same time isn't it just a marketing channel with one big captive audience already predisposed to like the film because it's religious based? Could it be considered a little unfair on the congregation that they don't get other films suggested to them week to week, perhaps The Dark Knight (Filmstalker review)?

I really don't see that happening. However with this film it almost guarantees positive reviews and poster quotes before the film comes out, and a captive and already primed audience to go and see it come opening weekend.

It's all about the marketing, and if the religious angle doesn't work for the film, they've got the Christian artist filled CD and the novelisation ready too.

Funnily though the most important audience hasn't yet seen Billy: The Early Years, Billy Graham and his family. Although copies of the film have been sent to Franklin Graham and he's watched it, he's been too busy to comment. The only member of the family who has is Gigi Graham, Billy's daughter, and she has been publicly praising it and has been hired as a consultant for the film.

So while man himself and his family have yet to see and comment on the film, the church preachers are being sought by the producers to market it for them, and the average churchgoer primed to head to the cinemas on opening weekend.



don't you think it's amazing that there are people out there condemning chruches for this?

live and let live, i always say.

i'm from North Carolina, so Grahm is a household name. I'd be hard pressed to think of another person, besides Johnny Cash, who i'd rather see biographied in film. And since he's been covered ever so nicely, let's give Grahm his day in the sun.

what i think is funny is how predictable the backlash from secularists against this film and marketing campaign is going to be. Theyre going to raise a penny anny stink over the fact that churches are being used to promote a film.

so what? no one ever said they couldn't.

what they're really doing is going after churches for any reason they can. Churches are a business, true true, and plenty of crap goes on behind locked doors...but if they're used to market a movie that benefits their ideals, there is no fault, end of line.

the same people gave medals to "Walk the Line" and "Ray", btw. You watch. it's a matter of time before the vultures descend. But mark my words, this movie may not be an international hit, but as long as they don't go spending crazy digits making it, you could have one hell of a marketing success on your hands.

the way i see it, this movie isn't about a religious icon so much as a local hero. People in the south look up to Grahm. He's the only kind of preacher i'd go for: one who's made the same bone headed mistakes i'd make, and who's paid for them. The dude's got scars inside, man. Very rich story to tell, for sure.

oh shoot, by the way, didn't realize i forgot to mention that i'm actually a bit amazed they're marketing the flick without showing it to HIM first.

seems that they'd like to have that "endorsed by b.g." on the reel if they could, so if the film IS finished, and they're not showing it to him, that is at least a "Yield" sign on the turnpike to "suckville".

I haven't read any "secularists" "condemning churches" for this, but I can speak for my own article and I do think that it doesn't quite sit right with me, promoting a film alongside promoting god and their words doesn't seem quite right, no matter what the film.

Don't be so quick to condemn and label those who might yet speak out about the marketing of the film, and myself included!

Church or not, the practice is to exclude the critics and target the captive and obviously agreeable audience to market it.

I do see what you say about the marketing of material that promotes their ideals, and I can see that there's a synergy there, however won't it be the studio and the marketing companies who will benefit?

That said if you read the previous article about the film I do agree that there's lot's to be had from the story, personally I'd like to see more about his later years and the connections with politics, but still I can see the early years could have a great story.

It is bizarre though that the family haven't signed onto the film this late in the day, you would have thought they would have been on board from day one, or that the studio would have let them see the script, the early footage, or even first screenings.


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