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Left Behind: The Movie reaped $2.1 million during its February opening weekend, making it the nation's No. 1 independent film. By late March, the celluloid version of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' phenomenally popular fictional account of the Rapture had earned more than $4 million.

Meanwhile, the Left Behind videotape, released in October before the production came to theaters, was chosen "Best-Selling Video of the Year for an Independent Studio" at the Video Software Dealers Association's home entertainment awards program during January in Las Vegas. Three million copies had left the shelves by the end of the year.

Such numbers, while impressive for most evangelistic films, are decidedly ho hum by Hollywood standards. But it's not the numbers so much as the quality of the film that has disappointed Tim LaHaye.

LaHaye filed suit against Namesake Entertainment and Cloud Ten Pictures in July 1999, claiming breach of contract. LaHaye seeks to have the original contract voided so that he can control the film rights to sequels and children's video spinoffs.

LaHaye's attorney, Christopher Rudd, says the producers did not make the blockbuster they had promised, thereby limiting the movie's mass-market appeal.

"This lawsuit is not about money," Rudd told Christianity Today. "Dr. LaHaye is in a place in his life where money is not the issue. [He] wanted to provide a really strong Christian message."

The suit says the producers told LaHaye that the movie's production budget would exceed $40 million, although there is no language in the contract to that effect. Publicity, marketing, distribution costs, and production costs came to just $17.4 million.

"We made no promises to make a $40 million movie," says Bryan Merryman, an attorney for ...

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