Rick Santorum's EchoLight Studios Plans to Release New Film in 650 Churches

Rick Santorum Portrait - H 2014
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Rick Santorum Portrait - H 2014

The film tells the same story of Christians hiding Jews from Nazis as did the 1975 movie "The Hiding Place," but from a different perspective.

EchoLight Studios, the faith-based film company run by former U.S. senator and Republican presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum, said it will release Return to the Hiding Place in at least 650 churches on May 1.

Return to the Hiding Place marks the second film to get the Church-release treatment under EchoLight, the first being Hoovey, which held its premiere at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, then went to churches wide on Feb. 1.

EchoLight is pioneering a new distribution model wherein churches are afforded the first window — not only do they show the films on their own screens, but they are also the first venues to get a supply of DVDs.

Churches pay EchoLight $5 for each ticket they sell, and they can sell tickets for any price they choose, keeping any up-charge. In the case of Hoovey, some churches didn't charge their congregation at all and simply absorbed the cost, while others charged a premium, marketed the film to outsiders and showed the movie multiple times in order to raise money.

Hoovey was made for about $2 million and 10,000 tickets have been sold so far, so EchoLight is a long way from turning a profit, but Santorum told The Hollywood Reporter that there's enough positive buzz that a theatrical run could be in the cards. In addition to that, he's hopeful for streaming and TV deals and a wide release of the DVD.

"It's a different model. It's not about how well we do on opening weekend," said Santorum, a devout Christian who became the CEO of EchoLight more than a year ago.

Return to the Hiding Place tells the same true story of Christians hiding Jews from Nazis as did the 1975 film The Hiding Place, though this time from the perspective of a young physics student who refuses to join the Nazi party. 

While EchoLight co-produced and distributed Hoovey, it acquired rights to Return to the Hiding Place via a partnership with directors-producers Peter and Josiah Spencer and the rest of the filmmakers. The film stars John Rhys-Davies.

Santorum says 30 additional churches signed on as exhibition partners just in the past week, so he's confident that Return to the Hiding Place can open on far more than the planned 650 screens. Each partner is allowed to screen the film prior to agreeing to show it to their congregation.

"We're still very much in growth mode," Santorum said. "We're asking churches to do something they've never done before. There's a start-up learning curve."

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com