Marketing: TWATG film and Joseph Smith’s 200th

Excel’s marketing team has done a pretty good job hyping the film version of “The Work and the Glory” as it continues to open in theatres across the country. The film’s opening has been mentioned and even reviewed in quite a few newspapers. And although the film has so far only met — not exceeded — expectations, it’s still done fairly well. According to LDS Film, it has now earned $2,639,519 and trails only “The Other Side of Heaven” in box office gross for LDS films.

The film will have a new wave of openings on March 11, and to announce it Excel filed a press release with PR Newswire titled ‘The Work and the Glory’ Makes Way for 200th Birthday Celebration for Founder of Mormon Church.

The subhed reads:

“The epic film, “The Work and the Glory” continues its nationwide release on March 11, 2005 by releasing into another 78 cities across the country. The film focuses on how the religious claims made by Joseph Smith back in the 1820’s affected families and communities as a whole and threatened to tear them apart. 2005 marks the 200th birthday of the religion’s founder and the release of the film kicks off a year full of celebrations by its members worldwide.”

This is a strategy that I certainly understand, but don’t entirely like. I’d probably do the same, but at the same time, this press release is rather coy about the fact that the movie isn’t part of the celebration activies of the actual LDS Church.

It’s hard for me to describe exactly what I object to because on one level I don’t object at all. I certainly don’t think that only Church-sanctioned activities should be part of the coverage of Joseph Smith’s 200th.

And some might argue that inasmuch as Excel has been bought by Deseret Book and the author of the books the film is based on is a general authority of the Church [one Gerald N. Lund], it’s almost like the Church is sponsoring it anyway.

But this mixing of commerce with the activities of the Church kind of bugs me.

This sentence from the press release typifies what I’m talking about:

“Since the limited release of ‘The Work and the Glory,’ the film has surpassed $2.5 million in box office and serves as the first big event of the year’s commemorations which include dance festivals, youth conferences, trips to church historical sites, and symposia.”

4 thoughts on “Marketing: TWATG film and Joseph Smith’s 200th”

  1. TWTG has made 2.6 million dollars, making it the second biggest LDS film, but since it cost over $7 million, they muust be considering it a huge financial dissapointment, and surely there will not be a sequel, and probably not a big-budget blockbuster again for a long time. In the first month of its national release, TWTG made about 1 million, while OSOH made 2 million in its first national month. OSOH finished with $4.7 million, while it looks like TWTG will probably finish around 3.3 million.
    Good thing Saints and Soldiers and especially The Best Two Years were profitable, I would rather see more like those, anyway. 

    Posted by Andrew Hall

  2. Good points, Andrew.

    When I wrote ‘met expectations,’ I should have clarified that I meant has met the expectations of those who follow LDS film and not those of the investors.

    Although, Excel is now lowering expectations for the film’s box office — as my post on the IndieWire story on LDS film mentions.

    I think that the Mormon market is showing that the best budget for an LDS film (assuming the investors want to break even or make a profit) is $500,000 to a $2 million.

    It seems cleare that the makers of both TWTG and OSOH overestimated the crossover appeal their films would have. 

    Posted by William Morris

  3. But this mixing of commerce with the activities of the Church kind of bugs me. 

    Me to.

    I haven’t heard much about DVD sales. I know that this is a huge part of the equation for Hollywood now. Do LDS films recoup much here? 

    Posted by J. Stapley

  4. J.

    Yes, they do. And it’s quite possible that they do at a fairly high rate — it only makes sense that they would.

    1. The best way to reach the Mormon market is via the LDS bookstores because there is not commercial media publication that Mormons read in high numbers.

    2. Mormons are a rather diffuse group and there are pockets of potential buyers who live in areas where the film was never shown (or where it was shown for only a couple of nights which trims down the number of possible filmgoers).

    3. In my (limited, second hand) experience, Mormon film nights have become a very popular group activity for Mormon youth and young adults and even Mormon families.

    I know I’ve read articles on this subject, but am too lazy to look them up. 

    Posted by William Morris

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