Opening weekend for a movie is like the Iowa caucuses and Election Day rolled into one.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum is very familiar with the political timetable and has become a quick learner about the box office, he proved Wednesday in introducing "The Christmas Candle" to an invited audience at Orchard Hill Church in Franklin Park. Rated PG and based on the Max Lucado book, it's being distributed by EchoLight Studios, where he is now CEO, and will open Friday on 400 U.S. screens, including at AMC-Loews at the Waterfront and Cinemark at Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer.
In the past, he said, too many movies aimed at Christian audiences were not well made or high quality or able to reach beyond the core audience and change the culture.
Santorum talks about 'Christmas Candle' movie
Former Sen. Rick Santorum talks about his company, EchoLight Studios, and its first movie release, "The Christmas Candle." (Video by Andrew Rush; 11/21/2013)
"As you know, this is no surprise to anybody here, I believe that the biggest problem in the country is not economic, it's not national security, it is the culture of this country. It is the breakdown of the family, it is the breakdown of the moral fabric of our country, because everything else spins from it. And so unless we begin to do something to address that, then, I think we're lost."
When he was approached to head EchoLight, with a mission of making faith-oriented family films, he and his wife, Karen, talked and prayed about it. The company, after all, is based in Texas, but the onetime GOP presidential candidate decided this was the way to leverage his gift of fame.
"How could we give back to the country that gave me the fame and give back to the God that blessed me with it? ... This is it, this is something that we can serve the kingdom, serve the country, move the needle in the right direction and hopefully help build an industry."
The former politician took the job in June, and he was approached by a producer in August about releasing the movie at Christmas. In a business where release dates are staked out years in advance, even Mr. Santorum knew the challenge of that.
Referring to Friday through Sunday, its opening weekend, he said, "How well we do on these three days will determine how successful this movie will be. Simple as that." He encouraged the audience to spread the word if they like the movie, either through neighborly visits or tweets, by contacting church and school groups, lobbying additional theaters to show it, and taking others to see it.
The movie is set in a small village in the English countryside where legend has it that an angel and a Christmas candle convey a miracle once every 25 years. It stars Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks ("Les Miserables"), Lesley Manville and singer Susan Boyle, who knows a little something about leveraging her fame, too.
"This is a real film that happens to have faith, and that's what we should be doing ... and it's a Christmas movie which is about whether God is with us or not."