In a shakeup of the area of interest faith-based streaming market, Sony Photos plans to acquire streaming service Pure Flix and its a whole bunch of 1000’s of subscribers dedicated to “clear leisure” and “feel-good motion pictures.”
Pure Flix, one among a half-dozen streaming platforms concentrating on Christian viewers, will probably be totally owned by Sony subsidiary Affirm Leisure pending regulatory approval, the corporate introduced final week.
Affirm already has a robust observe document of what executives name “uplifting, inspirational content material,” with well-liked titles aimed toward Christian audiences: Miracles from Heaven starring Jennifer Garner, Conflict Room from filmmaker brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, and The Star, an animated re-telling of the Nativity co-produced by DeVon Franklin and The Jim Henson Firm.
Keith Le Goy, president of networks and distribution at Sony, stated the acquisition permits Affirm to create and share extra tales which can be “each impactful and entertaining.”
Pure Flix CEO Michael Scott and chief content material officer David A. R. White—who has starred in many Pure Flix releases himself—said they plan to remain on board, becoming a member of Affirm Leisure after the deal is completed to handle the service and assist develop future programming. Nevertheless, the impartial studio Pure Flix Leisure will stay a separate entity and retain its library of movies—notably its God’s Not Useless trilogy, which collectively earned $96 million on the field workplace.
This transfer by a significant studio reveals the worth Hollywood locations on reaching Christian customers, significantly as most leisure has been transferring to in dwelling and on demand.
“The shift to streaming has been a very long time coming, with the pandemic accelerating it,” stated Erik Lokkesmoe, president of Nashville-based Aspiration Entertainment. “However there’s not a transparent path on tips on how to discover an viewers. Most gamers out there are nonetheless feeling their means up the staircase at nighttime.”
With most theaters closed throughout COVID-19-related lockdowns, streaming has dominated the leisure panorama. Sony’s announcement got here on the identical day Disney revealed that its Disney+ streaming service has attained greater than 73 million international subscribers. In the meantime, market chief Netflix has just lately risen to 195 million subscribers worldwide.
In contrast, Pure Flix reported 350,000 subscribers final December, and has since stated their streaming service has seen a “40 p.c improve in membership” this previous spring. (Pure Flix and Sony Photos didn’t reply to requests for remark.)
Regardless of present subscribers being a fraction of prime streamers, one trade insider famous a related advertising and marketing adage: Riches are within the niches.
“As audiences fragment, we see super alternatives,” stated Lokkesmoe, distributes movies and has promoted such hits as Received’t You Be My Neighbor?, The Peanut Butter Falcon, and Darkish Waters to the religion market. “Streaming has develop into an excellent choice. Households can take pleasure in many motion pictures early, at a value level the place it’s cheaper than film theaters.”
Streaming video-on-demand companies have disrupted Hollywood’s enterprise mannequin by bringing movie manufacturing, funding, advertising and marketing, and distribution below one model, accessible in dwelling. Main gamers Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max all attain considerably totally different customers. A parallel ecosystem of streaming competitors targeting Christian families, notably Minno, VidAngel, RightNowMedia, and Pure Flix, have tried to duplicate that mannequin.
But main streamers have saved faith-driven customers coming again with constant releases. Disney+ catered to Christian audiences with current inspirational movie Clouds—given high marks from Christian retailers—whereas Netflix encompasses a strong slate of religion titles like Sony’s Soul Surfer, The Younger Messiah, and the brand new docuseries Voices of Fireplace.
“At the moment, extra Christians are watching Netflix and Disney+ than any self-described ‘faith-based streaming service,’” stated Lokkesmoe. “However there’s no higher chief than Sony Affirm led by Wealthy Peluso to attempt to compete. They’ve the credibility and measurement to be taken critically by everybody: commerce publications, trade producers, and the viewers.”
Sony’s acquisition of Pure Flix streaming marks the primary main studio try to create a must-see vacation spot for religion content material. Its dozens of Christian-themed movies, together with the Kendrick Brothers’ conversion-oriented movies, will probably be merged with the Pure Flix library, which just lately added season 1 of VidAngel’s acclaimed Gospel adaptation The Chosen. (Crowdfunded by over 20,000 backers who’ve raised $20 million so far, the manufacturing outshines different titles on the Pure Flix app.)
However the different filmography of Sony’s Affirm label, helmed by govt vp Peluso since its founding, encapsulates a long time of hits and misses in reaching Christian customers. It additionally exhibits how retaining expertise has confirmed a problem.
After a number of Sony blockbusters, together with Heaven is for Actual, which earned $101 million worldwide, producer DeVon Franklin decamped to rival studio Paramount. Affirm launched the Erwin Brothers comedy Mothers’ Night time Out in 2014, however missed out on their $86 million windfall I Can Solely Think about, which launched in 2018 by way of Lionsgate as a substitute. That studio has since inked the filmmaker brothers to a multi-year deal.
With movies concentrating on Christian audiences starting from the evangelistic furor of God’s Not Useless to avant-garde faith-conscious movies like Martin Scorsese’s Silence and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Sony should outline the model of the Pure Flix service and its expanded choices.
“Determining what their religion movie library is about will probably be a superb problem,” stated Lokkesmoe. “Is it inspiring tales? Is it the nice, true, and exquisite? Or is it an absence of intercourse, violence, and specific language? Or simply what appeals to conservative white evangelicals?”
With the skepticism of an insider, he added: “My concern is [their approach] might miss out on trustworthy, genuine storytelling that wrestles with the darkish, damaged world we truly stay in.”
At the moment, for $12.99 a month, Pure Flix invitations viewers to “place confidence in their leisure.” Its most-watched titles embrace The Chosen; The Case for Christ, about skeptical journalist-turned-biblical-apologist Lee Strobel; and Palau, a biopic on the well-known evangelist.