Are moviegoing audiences ready for an expanding faith-based cinematic universe? At a recent keynote during this year’s National Religious Broadcasters’ Convention in Anaheim, the creators of I Can Only Imagine, now collectively called Kingdom Studios, announced an ambitious slate of Christian films in partnership with Lionsgate.
With an independent budget and grassroots marketing, I Can Only Imagine became a faith-based phenomenon, amassing more than $83 million at the domestic box office. Viewers knew that something was coming on the heels of that success, but Kingdom’s plans are big and bold, aiming for two films a year on a variety of subjects, including a trilogy of biblical dramas, and more music biopics.
When I spoke to Andy Erwin, co-director of I Can Only Imagine prior to that film’s release last year, I expressed my own desire to see more contemporary Christian music stories onscreen. Although he couldn’t announce it at the time, Erwin said to “stay tuned.”
“We’re actually looking at at least one and possibly two stories that delve into a similar world,” he said. “There are other music stories about songs that we love so much, understanding the life experiences that brought that song about, it’s a powerful world. So it’s something that we are interested in continuing to scratch that itch.”
During tonight’s two-hour kick off, Kingdom brought several special guests to the stage including GRAMMY Award-winning musical group for KING & COUNTRY, pastor Greg Laurie, bestselling music artist Jeremy Camp, whose life story will be the focus of an upcoming biopic, and a special taped message from Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chairman Joe Drake, among others.
“The dream of Kingdom Studios is simple: to create a media company dedicated to telling life-changing stories by empowering incredible artists and creatives,” said Jon Erwin.
“We are excited to partner with global content leader Lionsgate to make that dream a reality,” said Kingdom Studio Co-Founder and Producer Kevin Downes.
“Lionsgate is built on the very idea of delivering all audiences stories that inspire, uplift and entertain,” Drake said in the prerecorded message. “The films that Kingdom has unveiled today add an exciting new dimension to our already existing commitment and relationship within the faith community. Together, our unprecedented partnership will ensure these films have the full resources, strength and support of our studio to amplify Kingdom’s existing vision while reaching the widest possible audience globally.”
The first film for Kingdom Studios, as previously announced, is I Still Believe. Scheduled for release on March 20, 2020, the inspirational drama chronicles the true-life story of Christian music mega-star Jeremy Camp. His remarkable journey of love and loss proves there is always hope in the midst of tragedy and that faith tested is the only faith worth sharing. The film is written by Jon Erwin and Jon Gunn, directed by The Erwin Brothers and will be produced by Kevin Downes.
Jesus Revolution which tells the true story of a national spiritual awakening in the early 1970’s and its origins within a community of teenaged hippies in Southern California. The film will be produced in association with pastor Greg Laurie. Written by Jon Erwin and Jon Gunn, the film will be directed by Jon Gunn (THE CASE FOR CHRIST, LIKE DANDELION DUST) and produced by Kevin Downes and the Erwin Brothers.
Downes also introduced a trilogy of films inspired by the Bible that will create a new cinematic universe of Biblical stories. “The best-selling book of all time is the perfect source material for the most gripping character-driven cinematic universe ever undertaken,” said Downes. The first film in the trilogy will be Apostles: Resurrection of Christ. The film will be written by Jon Erwin and Jon Gunn and directed by The Erwin Brothers. Kevin Downes will produce.
To end the keynote, the team gave a sneak peek into a film that has just entered development. The Drummer Boy is a period musical being developed in association with the faith-based musical group for KING & COUNTRY, the two-time Grammy Award winning duo who have garnered four No. 1 singles (“joy,” “Priceless,” “Fix My Eyes,” and “Shoulders”), nine Top 10 hits, and had songs featured on the Emmys, Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football and many other high-profile events, including performances on The Tonight Show, Today and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Introducing the film and the band, Andrew Erwin described the film as something “never seen before in the faith space that will surprise and delight audiences everywhere.” The film is currently in the early stages of development and will be written and directed by the Smallbone Brothers, co-written by Richard Ramsey (The Song) and produced by Kevin Downes and The Erwin Brothers. Luke Smallbone will serve as an executive producer.
Kingdom Studios’ executives include Jon Erwin, Andy Erwin, Kevin Downes (together, the trio has created films such as I Can Only Imagine, Woodlawn, Steve McQueen: American Icon) and Tony Young (I Can Only Imagine, The Song). Kingdom Studios has operations in both Los Angeles and Nashville.
Watch the announcement from NRB below: