Can a determined filmmaker and a chain of fried-chicken restaurants restore the popularity of movies free of profanity, violence, and sex? First-time director Frank Schroeder and the Chick-fil-A chain hope The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend will refute Hollywood executives who dismissed the film as having no audience.

The Pistol portrays a year in the life of the late “Pistol” Pete Maravich, the flamboyant basketball star of the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers and the National Basketball Association. Though the film had strong box-office showings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Florida; and other test markets in 1990, Schroeder could not find a domestic distributor.

“We kept on getting the same answer—that it was ‘too soft.’ We kept asking what that meant, and the studios wouldn’t say,” Schroeder said. He suspected, however, it was the film’s G rating that put off Hollywood. Last year, executives with Columbia Pictures and Time/Warner Communications told Sports Illustrated that the film lacked commercial appeal because it focuses on Maravich’s year in the eighth grade.

Father And Son

Schroeder says that is the story Maravich wanted to tell. Maravich, who became a Christian after retiring from the NBA, died in 1988 at age 40, while playing basketball with friends. He wanted the film to portray his love for his father, “Press,” who coached his son at home and at LSU, Schroeder said. Initial work on the film had begun before Maravich’s death, including the discovery of the 13-year-old star of the film, Adam Guier, by Maravich himself.

The Pistol will be distributed through Schroeder’s Premier Pictures Releasing Corp., based in Baton Rouge. Chick-fil-A paid an undisclosed amount to promote the film in the Southeast, gaining in return a mention of the Atlanta-based chain in all the movie’s promotions.

S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A founder and chairman, introduces the film. In his on-screen message, Cathy decries the changing content of films, mentions the commitment of “the Chick-fil-A family” to family values, then invites teenagers join him for The Pistol. Whether Chick-fil-A will support The Pistol nationally depends on its showing in the Southeast. The film has shown in more than 38 cities in the South and will be released nationally this month.

While the film’s content is not explicitly Christian, Schroeder believes Christians should send Hollywood a message with their attendance at family fare like The Pistol. Even if his film does not do well at U.S. box offices, Schroeder hopes commitments to distribute the film in over 60 foreign countries and its release on video will give the story of “Pistol” Pete Maravich the audience it “deserves.”

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.