After a successful, four-walling campaign in theaters across the U.S. for their faith-based feature Beyond The Mask through a distribution entity Gathr, producers have just pacted with Freestyle Releasing to distribute the film in more mainstream theaters on June 5 for traditional, weeklong runs. The film stars John Rhys-Davies (Killing Jesus, The Lord Of The Rings). The same writer of the faith-based phenoms Fireproof and Courageous, Stephen Kendrick, also co-wrote this film (and therein lies copy for the one-sheet).
Freestyle Releasing also distributed the faith-based film God’s Not Dead on behalf of Pure Flix last March to great success. On a $2M budget, they smartly rolled out the film, ending up with a hefty $60.7M gross.
“About a year ago, they sent us the picture and they told us that their plan was to go out on a Gathr distribution plan to play it for one night in selected theaters around the country. They said if it did well, they would be looking for larger distribution,” Freestyle Releasing president Mark Borde told Deadline. “We looked at the picture and it had a lot of production value. We thought, let’s see what happens with Gathr. To be frank, the grosses have been phenomenal. So we let them know we were on board. We’re still hammering out the fine points and are finalizing plans now but have great faith in the picture.”
The agreement with Freestyle comes after producers have already pre-sold more than $470K before bowing in theaters this past Monday. Each showing of the $4M-budgeted film played for one night only in each theater. So far, they have played on 365 screens in all 50 states. On Monday, when Beyond The Mask opened on 181 theaters, it had taken in $242K, which translated into a per screen average of $1,300.
The film, produced by Aaron Burns and co-produced/directed by Chad Burns, was co-written by Kendrick (Courageous, Fireproof) and Paul McCusker. It co-stars Kara Kilmer (Chicago Fire) and Andrew Cheney (Seasons Of Grey). Tracey Burns is associate producer.
The production, marketing and distribution of Beyond The Mask has been completely grassroots. They started off with a Kickstarter campaign in 2011, raised the money, produced the picture and then worked out a deal with Gathr to help distribute the film. They marketed through churches, social media, home-schooling communities, and with volunteers from across the country.
And this one has a bit of a twist in that it is a period piece. Beyond The Mask follows a leading mercenary for the British East India Company who was double-crossed and is on the run in the American colonies. Working to redeem his name and win back the affections of the woman with whom he’s never been fully truthful, he hides behind a new mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer. As his past life closes in on him, he must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte — as well as Ben Franklin — while he races against time to defuse a plot of historical proportions. It is being marketed as “a faith-based adventure celebrating grace, liberty and the true freedom that can only be found in Christ.”
There is, as the industry has witnessed historically, a great market for these kind of films. Back in 2008 was Kirk Cameron-starring Fireproof from filmmaker and associate pastor of the Sherwood Church, Alex Kendrick, On a $500,000 budget raised by the church, the faith-based picture ended up grossing $33.4M when it was released by Samuel Goldwyn. In 2011, they did it again, when on a $2M budget TriStar released Courageous which opened to $9.1M and went onto make $34.5M.
The Kendrick team ended up taking the proceeds and putting it back into the community by building an 82-acre sports park in Albany, GA. Other monies from the success of the films went toward mission and new church plans.
“What would I do if we had a huge success? The first thing that comes to mind is creating more films to spread the hope and word of the Gospel and bring stories to families who can enjoy watching them together,” producer Aaron Burns said.