Movie Producer Promotes New Thriller in Church

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Movie producer Matthew Crouch went to an odd place to promote his new thriller, which features cutting-edge special effects and lots of chases after stolen computer discs. He went to church.

Five days before his new film The Omega Code opened last Friday, Crouch showed the movie's two-minute promotional trailer during Sunday services in Houston. It got a standing ovation, and the "pastor's two sisters told me afterward, `We're going to this movie, and we've never been in a theater before,'" Crouch said.

Like the summer surprise hit The Blair Witch Project, which was creatively promoted over the Internet, Crouch's latest film has built a groundswell of interest in a style that runs counter to Hollywood tradition. This time, church volunteers have helped spread the word about the movie with a religious theme.

Playing in just 304 theaters, the film cracked the top 10, taking in $2.4 million its opening weekend and earning a per screen average of $7,745.

By comparison, Fight Club, the heavily hyped film with A-list stars like Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, earned $5,662 in nearly 2,000 theaters during its debut.

"I'm as shocked as you are we were No. 10 and had the top- grossing number," Crouch said. "That is David and Goliath stuff."

Starring Michael York, Casper Van Dien and Catherine Oxenberg, the biblical thriller centers on efforts to stop a villain from using a stolen secret Bible code to take over the world.

The controversial idea that the Old Testament contains hidden references has been the subject of numerous studies, and recently was the subject of the 1997 bestseller The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin.

The PG-13 film has no bad language, no sex and no gore, but plenty of scary imagery and a few deaths.

The $7.2 million movie was financed by Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Christian television network founded by Crouch's father, Paul. Trinity plugged the movie on the air and enlisted 2,000 volunteers to promote the film, which initially had a tiny promotional budget of $600,000.

The film's distributor, Providence Entertainment, sent volunteers "Marketing 101 kits," said Susan Chaudoir, national campaign manager for the movie. …