Former U.S. Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is bringing Christian films to the big screen.
EchoLight Studios said Monday that Santorum, known for his socially conservative views, has been named CEO of the Dallas-based Christian film production company.
Santorum says he has always had an interest in shaping cultural messages and joined the company's board a year ago. He believes EchoLight has the opportunity to transform the movie industry by tapping into the demand for high-quality films with a focus on "inspirational and uplifting" Christian messages.
There are a number of smaller Christian film companies. Sony Films has its own division, Affirm Films, and which released "Soul Surfer." Actors such as Mel Gibson and Kirk Cameron have promoted their movies that have Christian messages. Still, the market remains under the radar.
Bruce Goerlich, chief research officer at industry data tracking firm Rentrak, said that family movies are significant box office contributors, having grossed nearly $1.3 billion out of the total $10.8 billion box office during 2012. Faith-based TV programming has also drawn viewers. The History Channel quadrupled their usual Sunday night ratings in March with the series "The Bible."
"You have millions of Americans who don't go to the movies because they don't want to see, and they don't want their children seeing, certain content," Santorum said. He believes that Dallas can become the Hollywood of the faith-and-family movie market.
EchoLight's films are small by Hollywood standards, with production budgets of $1 million to $3 million. The company's first film, a story about a bank robber set in the Old West, is called "The Redemption of Henry Myers" and is scheduled to be released this fall. A second film is slated for release in 2014.
The company is funded mostly by three investors from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, whose names Santorum would not disclose. There are also a few small investors in EchoLight, including Santorum.