Lionsgate Pounces on Faith Market

Lionsgate, the largest independent film entertainment studio, has decided to jump aboard the fast-developing faith market and has signed a distribution agreement with the world's largest Christian publisher.

Working alongside Thomas Nelson, Inc., which is also the world's sixth overall largest publisher, Lionsgate will exclusively distribute their upcoming wave of faith-based films to the Christian market.

"Lionsgate is making a concerted effort to expand its leadership in the faith-based category," said Steve Beeks, president of the independent film studio, in a news release. "Thomas Nelson has the best sales team in the industry, and they provide our faith-based product with unprecedented access to millions of proven Christian product buyers across the United States."

Lionsgate has already gained exclusive North American rights to three DVD documentaries based off the best-selling books by Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel. The titles include The Case for Christ, The Case for a Creator, and the The Case for Faith. The nonfiction texts together have sold more than 8 million copies, and have been given numerous awards.

The Case for Christ will be the first release for Lionsgate and should move into retail in the third quarter.

"Making Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ the first new title under the Thomas Nelson relationship is a very powerful statement to show our commitment," added Beeks.

The studio also has other upcoming movies set for release in the future including Church Boy, which is based on the true story of multi-Grammy gospel singer Kirk Franklin, and The Christmas Cottage, which is an adaptation of a painting made from acclaimed Christian artist Thomas Kinkade.

"This is a strategic moment for Thomas Nelson and Lionsgate," explained Gary Davidson, senior vice president of Christian retail sales at Thomas Nelson, in a news release. "We are very excited to partner with Lionsgate where we can offer quality family friendly and faith-based films to our Christian retail customers."

Several other film production companies have begun producing faith-based content within the past year, and the trend seems to be growing.

The most notable example is FoxFaith, the faith-based branch of Twentieth Century Fox, which was created this past October. The studio holds about 75 percent of the market share at Christian retailers.

Other noteworthy studios include the Weinstein Co., which began its own faith-based label in December, and Sony Pictures, which has released works such as the Left Behind series, based on the best-selling novels.