Targeting "evangelical Christians who often have shunned popular entertainment as offensive," Rupert Murdoch's Fox Filmed Entertainment has announced plans to create a new studio imprint, FoxFaith, specializing in religious-themed movies.

In a front-page story, The Los Angeles Timesreported that FoxFaith will be acquiring as many as a dozen films per year, at least six of which will be released theatrically—starting with Love's Abiding Joy in two weeks. AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas have already signed on to screen the films.

An Associated Press story reports that each of the films will be budgeted at less than $5 million, but Fox is still hopeful the movies will play well with their target audience—the same audience that went out to see The Passion of The Christ and Narnia. "We saw the opportunity to fill the needs of an underserved marketplace," notes Fox vice president Steve Feldstein. "All of this programming is entertainment first. We're not in the business of proselytizing or preaching."

Fox's Simon Swart concurs: "What we're trying to do is create great movies that are story-driven, that happen to tap into Christian values. The genesis of the FoxFaith banner is that it's a … marketing umbrella for these pictures, so that people can have confidence the movies won't violate their core beliefs."

Love's Abiding Joy, which will open in select theaters on October 6, is the fourth in a series of films directed by Michael Landon, Jr., based on the popular Love Comes Softly novels by Janette Oke. The second FoxFaith film, One Night with the King, is a new adaptation of the book of Esther, hits theaters on October 13.

The announcement has already prompted some commentary. Peter T. Chattaway, a regular contributor ...

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