Christian video producers are stepping up the quality of their efforts without diluting their clear moral message. Once hampered by slim finances, less than state-of-the-art production values, and bland talking-head formats, today's Christian filmmakers now command larger budgets and growing respect. But one challenge remains: convincing people to drive past secular video outlets well stocked with hits such as The Lion King and Forrest Gump and travel instead to a local Christian bookstore to buy Christian videos.

A 1993 study by researcher George Barna found that although 56 percent of Christians with videocassette recorders had purchased a tape within the previous year, fewer than one-third of those Christians had bought a Christian video recording. The study also found that 64 percent of Christians said they lacked information about which Christian videos were of interest to them and available on the market.

"I see the church walking away from the power of visual media while non-Christians and secular organizations are saying they want more of this," says Kenneth Dymmel, a film consultant in Pasadena, California.

ENTERTAINMENT WITH VALUES: That perception may be about to change, according to those who attended an International Christian Visual Media (ICVM) meeting in July in Denver. Members of the trade association, which represents more than 130 people and companies involved in production, distribution, and marketing of Christian visual media, expressed cautious optimism about the "Entertainment with Values" campaign that ICVM plans to launch this fall.

The effort will target Christian mothers ages 28 to 45, an audience that focus groups reveal is concerned about buying high-quality and spiritually uplifting videos for their children. The campaign will use a $2.99 sampler video, discount coupons, and a free 16-page video magazine to guide parents to 21 new videos to be offered for sale by eight publishers this fall.

Dan Johnson, whose Nashville-based IdeAgency designed the campaign for ICVM, spent much of July lining up support from three Christian retailing giants who, combined, operate 500-plus stores.

"Christian video today is where Christian music was 15 years ago," says Johnson, who was an executive with Word Records, Amy Grant's label when she first hit it big. Johnson says mothers targeted by the "Entertainment with Values" campaign are the same women introduced to contemporary Christian music by Grant earlier.

The promotion will cover Christy videos from Broadman & Holman, creationism videos from Moody Institute of Science, and three new titles produced by Focus on the Family: new installments of both the Last Chance Detectives series marketed by Tyndale and the Adventures in Odyssey series marketed by Word, as well as a new Focus series, The Story Keepers, marketed by Zondervan.

Beyond the familiar bookstore and mail-order approach, some producers are investigating whether the Internet, the global computer network, can be used to deliver Christian multimedia material.


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