‘Left Behind’ tries new approach for old story

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The filmmakers of "Left Behind: World at War" have faith that a laser-targeted nontraditional release pattern will work for the apocalyptic thriller. The movie, which stars Kirk Cameron and Academy Award-winner Lou Gossett Jr., will open Oct. 21 at 3,800 locations, massive for a religious-themed film. But those won't be multiplexes-they'll be churches, jails, colleges and military bases.

Executives at Cloud Ten Pictures, the Canadian company that has produced and distributed two prior "Left Behind" movies, said they have screenings set up in every U.S. state and 40 foreign territories for "Left Behind: World at War." Participating groups are paying Cloud Ten a licensing fee based on how many people will be watching the movie, and they'll get a DVD copy to play the movie as many times as they want.

The film will be released on DVD four days later, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, at retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco.

Distributors of "Left Behind" are courting their primary audience, aiming to be everywhere for the faith community that made million-sellers of movies, books and related merchandise.

"The filmmakers want to bring back the old family movie nights at churches," said A. Larry Ross, president of A. Larry Ross Communications, a firm working with the distributor. "It could also demonstrate to Hollywood that there's a potential alternative distribution network of 330,000 churches in America."

The original "Left Behind: The Movie" has sold 4 million copies on DVD; in all, it brought in about $65 million from its DVD and limited theatrical run. Its sequel, "Left Behind: Tribulation Force," posted similar numbers on a miniscule production budget.

The movies are based on the best-selling novels written by evangelical minister Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The books, which spawned spin-off products from graphic novels to CDs, have sold some 62 million products.

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