LOS ANGELES – The home-video division of Twentieth Century Fox said Tuesday it will acquire as many as a dozen family friendly movies a year and market them under the FoxFaith banner.
With budgets of less than $5 million each, the films will be aimed at the same Christian audiences that helped boost box-office receipts for such films as "The Passion of the Christ" and "The Chronicles of Narnia."
"We saw the opportunity to fill the needs of an underserved marketplace," said Steve Feldstein, senior vice president of marketing at Fox Home Video.
"All of this programming is entertainment first. We're not in the business of proselytizing or preaching," he said.
About half of the films will be distributed theatrically through a third-party company under a deal with two large theater chains, AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas. The rest will go directly to DVD.
The studio said last year it was forming the FoxFaith unit as part of a broader effort to reach audiences seeking family friendly films. Tuesday's announcement brought specific details.
FoxFaith could be successful if it concentrates on the home-video market rather than theatrical releases, which cost more to market and carry more risk, media analyst Harold Vogel said.
"My guess is that the real strategy is to build a DVD library," Vogel said. "Those are the kind of things that will sell steadily over many years."
The family friendly strategy was originally launched to sell a broad array of DVDs to retailers, including titles such as "Hello Dolly" and "My Friend Flicka" as well as "Love Comes Softly," a film based on the books of popular Christian author Janette Oke.
Fox passed on the chance to distribute Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" theatrically. But the studio did distribute the DVD after the film grossed more than $600 million worldwide at the box office.
After the success of "Passion," Hollywood studios made greater efforts to market family films to faith-based audiences. New Line, a division of Time Warner Inc., is releasing the film "Nativity" in December. The film tells the story of Christ's birth.
Several studios have hired specialized firms to market their films directly to churches.
Fox has developed a network of 90,000 churches it will use to help market its FoxFaith films.
The first theatrical release to be marketed by the unit will be "Love's Abiding Joy," based on the fourth installment in the Janette Oke book series. FoxFaith will also be releasing "Color of the Cross," a film that portrays Christ as a black man.