Faith-and-family-friendly film studio reaches $5 million funding target in one week
Angel Studios lets audiences pick the projects they produce, leaning on the crowdfunding model for both feedback and funding.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
It took less than a week for a fledgling, faith-friendly studio to meet its first milestone.
VidAngel, the company offering content filtering services to concerned parents, became Angel Studios March 18. The rebranded venture vowed to raise $5 million as part of its crowdfunding-fueled concept, in part to fund an enhanced streaming app. The studio lets audiences pick the projects they produce, leaning on the crowdfunding model for both feedback and funding.
The company raised $1 million in the first 20 hours and met the $5 million threshold by March 24.
Angel Studios offers content the entire family can watch, like clean stand-up material (“Dry Bar Comedy”) and “Freelancers,” a sitcom about millennials trying to run a video production company.
The minds behind the studio are no strangers to crowdfunding. They leaned on it to fund “The Chosen” TV series, a show following the life of Jesus Christ. That campaign generated a staggering $10 million from people eager to see such a series.
“We tested the concept with ’The Chosen,’ which has surpassed $30 million in revenue on Season One in 2020 alone, funded the production of the next season entirely from sales, and prepared Season Two for release for this spring,” Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios, said in a statement.
The second season of “The Chosen” bows on April 4 — Easter Sunday.
The new studio, Harmon’s team hopes, allows storytellers to work around “Hollywood gatekeepers” to produce faith and family-friendly fare. Other projects associated with the newly formed studio include “Tuttle Twins,” an animated series based on libertarian principles that previously earned $1 million via a 2020 crowdfunding campaign.
The company generated more than $47 million in total last year via original content revenue.
VidAngel’s filtering service continues as a separate entity after years of legal battles with studio giants like Disney over the ability to edit existing material.
The Utah-based VidAngel settled with Disney and Warner Bros. in September after a protracted legal fight, promising to pay the studios $9.9 million over the next 14 years.
Filmmaker Spencer Folmar says he didn’t read about Angel Studios in any mainstream entertainment press. Facebook’s ad targeting alerted him to the venture.
That, plus an existing network of 30,000-plus “investors” from the company’s VidAngel days, helped promote the launch.
Folmar, known for films like “Generational Sins” that fuse faith with a grittier, real world approach, says Christian audiences may be better served by Angel Studios than traditional Hollywood content.
“I see Christians doing more independent work, and it’s better received, better quality,” Folmar says.
The shocking success of 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” opened up Hollywood’s eyes to an untapped Christian marketplace. Since then, independent filmmakers and studios, like Sony’s Affirm platform, have brought faith-based movies to the marketplace with mixed-to-strong results.
Some, like the big-budget “Noah,” didn’t haul in “Passion”-sized numbers, while micro-indies such as “War Room” and “God’s Not Dead” generated sizable profits.
“The Chosen” proved one of the genre’s bigger successes, snagging strong reviews and considerable consumer interest.
Folmar says it still won’t be easy for Angel Studios moving forward as it competes against a heavily funded landscape of fresh content.
“Five million is a great raise, but that’s not even a marketing budget on a studio picture,” he says. If Angel Studios wants to make, say, a Biblical epic, it will require $100 million for the budget alone.
“Money will always be an issue,” he says.
The studio could stay on a smaller scale, though, echoing its success with “The Chosen.” Folmar called that show “extremely relatable” despite material that can often be taken too seriously.
Producer/director Matt Edwards (“Can We Take a Joke?”) says crowdfunding fatigue could be a factor in the company’s continued success. Still, given the initial interest despite little media coverage, the $5 million figure suggests a bright future for Angel Studios.
“As long as the creators are able to raise the funds and deliver on the product they promised, I don’t see how this thing can fail,” Edwards says.
Plus, the early figures highlight a need in the marketplace for fare like “The Chosen” and “Freelancers.”
“There’s a huge underserved market in the country,” Edwards says.
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