Universal to Release 'Unbroken' DVD Marketed Exclusively to Christian Audience

Unbroken Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Unbroken Still - H 2014

A "Legacy of Faith" version of the home video will feature 90 minutes of extras and sell only at Christian stores and websites.

When director Angelina Jolie left out Louis Zamperini's Christian epiphany from her movie Unbroken, publications like Religion News Service and the Christian Post, as well as myriad bloggers, wondered whether the faithful would show up at theaters. While the movie did fine — $161 million worldwide on a $65 million budget — it appears Universal Pictures is belatedly addressing the concerns of the faith-based audience by releasing a DVD version of the movie exclusively for them.

The home video release is set for Tuesday at all the usual outlets, but a special "Legacy of Faith" edition includes both the movie and 90 minutes extra material that focuses on Zamperini's life after his near-death experiences in a rickety lifeboat and at a brutal Japanese prison camp during World War II. Universal has taken the unusual step of making the "Legacy of Faith" version available only at Christian outlets. 

After the war, Zamperini suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that included nightmares of him exacting revenge on The Bird, the nickname given to the guard who abused him most while he was a POW. He turned to drinking and fighting after his release, and his wife was set to divorce him until he agreed in 1949 to attend a sermon in a tent delivered by a young preacher named Billy Graham. That event and what came next make up nearly a third of the Laura Hillenbrand book on which the movie was based, though it's not addressed in the film.

"I loved the movie. It was beautiful and brutal at the same time. Angie got all the scenes right," Zamperini's son, Luke Zamperini, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "But the biggest criticism we got was from people in the faith-based community who read the book and said, 'Well, it left out the whole Billy Graham scene.' "

The "Legacy of Faith" disc includes a description of what happened that day and the next, and shows lots of footage of Graham and Zamperini together in the 1950s, as the two became good friends. Luke Zamperini, his sister Cynthia Zamperini Garris, Hillenbrand and others appear in the bonus material.

A clip of the bonus material embedded below also shows Louis Zamperini shaking hands with his former captors, taken when he visited them years later to tell them he had forgiven them — though The Bird refused to see him.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment seems to have largely outsourced the marketing and distribution of the faith-based product and wasn't available for comment. It partnered with Pure Flix, which will distribute the "Legacy of Faith" version of the home video through Family Christian Stores, Mardel Christian Stores, Parable Christian Stores and ChristianBook.com. Faith Driven Entertainment is handling much of the publicity.

"The Christian world has embraced Louis Zamperini's story as one of their own," Luke Zamperini said. "But I'm hoping for a wider release for the 'Legacy of Faith' version so that people who don't shop at Christian stores can get their hands on this."

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com