A Christian Retail Chain Is Getting Into The Faith-Based Film Biz With ’90 Minutes In Heaven’

I saw the words "nation's largest Christian chain" and this the banner image I came up with. I'm sorry.

I saw the words "nation's largest Christian chain" and this the banner image I came up with. I'm sorry.

It’s doubtful that the faith-based film industry can keep expanding at its current pace much longer, now that the market’s been tapped more times than your sister, but the conventional wisdom is that there’s still money to be made. The latest player to muscle in on the action is Family Christian Stores, “the nation’s largest Christian retail chain,” who, according to Deadline‘s scoop manatees, will start their planned two-films-a-year production arm with 90 Minutes In Heaven. Which is not about a slumber party game where you get to make out with God, no matter how much I wish it was. The film is based on a best-selling book of the same name:

As he is driving home from a minister’s conference, Baptist minister Don Piper collides with a semi-truck that crosses into his lane. He is pronounced dead at the scene. For the next 90 minutes, Piper experiences heaven where he is greeted by those who had influenced him spiritually. He hears beautiful music and feels true peace. Back on earth, a passing minister who had also been at the conference is led to pray for Don even though he knows the man is dead. Piper miraculously comes back to life and the bliss of heaven is replaced by a long and painful recovery. For years Piper kept his heavenly experience to himself. Finally, however, friends and family convinced him to share his remarkable story. [Amazon]

As I’ve said in the past, the key to a successful faith-based film, what separates the The Identicals from the Heaven is for Reals, is an obvious title – God’s Not Dead, Liberals Are Gay, Jesus Was Definitely A Guy, etc – and 90 Minutes In Heaven definitely has that.

The book version has also sold more than four million copies, and not actually having fact checked this story, at least on the face of it, it’s actually about faith, and a guy who was actually dead. Unlike Heaven Is For Real, Todd Burpo’s story that was two minutes of his not-dead kid going to heaven and 90 minutes of sticking it to everyone with the temerity to question Todd Burpo. Who had such a nice family and truck and weekend softball team after all.

90 Minutes in Heaven will reportedly be budgeted at $5 to $6 million. Modest by Hollywood standards, but much bigger than the early Kirk Cameron stuff, showing how much the faith-based market has evolved. Family Christian Stores founder Rick Jackson, who made his fortune on a healthcare staffing company before founding his retail chain, says he knew there was a market for more faith-based films when his chain sold $4 million worth of Blind Side DVDs.

 [90 Minutes In Heaven] has been scripted and will be directed by Michael Polish. Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth will star. [Deadline]

Hayden Christensen hasn’t been too busy since George Lucas killed his career, and anyway, with Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear starring in multiple faith-based films, it may not be the career step down it was once was.

As for Michael Polish, he’s best known for directing The Astronaut Farmer. I’ve never seen that, but I firmly believe Hollywood has never done better than this poster:

My favorite part is that the tagline isn’t a tagline, it’s a direct quote from the protagonist. Who happens to be named “Farmer.” Because with a title like “The Astronaut Farmer,” you really need a double meaning.

I guess what I’m saying is, there are a lot of reasons to be excited for 90 Minutes In Heaven.