Listening In preview: The Erwin brothers

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: making Christian movies.

Jon and Andrew Erwin wrote and directed last year’s blockbuster Christian film I Can Only Imagine. The brothers made the movie about MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard for only $7 million. Yet it earned nearly $90 million at the box office. Quite a return on investment.

Even more impressive, it had the highest per theater earnings of any movie in its opening weekend. Even higher than the number one film that same weekend: Black Panther.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: That success prompted the Erwin brothers to launch a new Christian movie studio, Kingdom Studios. It has the backing of secular powerhouse LionsGate.

On this week’s Listening In, host Warren Smith talks to Jon Erwin about the new venture. Let’s listen now to a snippet of their conversation.

WARREN SMITH: When you guys try to decide what story to tell, what are some of your criteria? If I look across all the various genres of movies, I mean, there’s documentary, there’s sort of from the ground up creative features. And then there are based-on-true-story kind of features, which seems to be the space that you guys are in right now…. Is that y’all’s brand is that y’all’s niche or is that just what you’ve been able to get made so far?

JON ERWIN: Well, there’s an incredible power to true stories, and we learned that with Woodlawn and I Can Only Imagine. You just can’t deny the truth. And we love true stories. What Kingdom values most is two things. Stories: We believe the right story can change your life. And great artists and people because it takes great artists to tell great stories. And really the funnel is what we call it, of the stories that we want to tell are, first and foremost, we want to tell stories that are really entertaining. I go to the movies to be entertained. And when we say theatrical events, you know, in the age of Netflix and all these things, we believe in doing these events in movie theaters and large-scale, wide theatrical releases. And I want to go to be entertained and have an emotional experience.

And then we want to make things that are emotionally relatable, no matter what you believe, even if you’re not a Christian, to make them accessible and to draw people to Christianity. And then we want to make things safe for the entire family. And so that’s sort of the goal, is to make really entertaining things that are relatable and safe. The cool thing is you can do that in a lot of different ways. So one of the things that we’re dreaming of is to sort of branch out in Christian films that maybe a surprise and delight and that you wouldn’t expect.

(Photo/Alabama Department of Commerce)

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