With "Woman Thou Art Loosed," Magnolia Targets Christian and African-American Moviegoers
by Eugene Hernandez
Following in the footsteps of this year's successful theatrical releases of such religious based films as "The Passion of the Christ" and "The Gospel of John," Magnolia Pictures will open "Woman Thou Art Loosed," the adaptation of Bishop T.D. Jakes' best-selling book of the same name, today in 400 theaters around the country. The film, acquired by Magnolia after it was a hit at the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this year, will be the indie distributor's widest release yet.
The big draw for "Woman Thou Art Loosed," directed by Michael Schultz, is Bishop Jakes, the incredibly popular preacher, pastor, author and playwright who plays himself in the film. He co-produced the project with Reuben Cannon. In the movie, Kimberly Elise stars as a woman dealing with sexual abuse at the hands of one of her mother's lovers. The violation, hidden away by her mother, leads Elise's character to a life of torment and crime. Inspired by Jakes' preaching, she ultimately finds solace in his words.
"There are so few films that speak to this large Christian market and even fewer films of quality," Magnolia's chief Eamonn Bowles told indieWIRE this Week. "This is an enormously underserved demographic, as the staggering success of 'The Passion' demonstrated, but also, the film is incredibly well acted and the world it depicts seems real, not the Hollywood version of life in the African-American community, but one with a connection to the way people actually live their lives."
T.D. Jakes, founder of the 30,000 member, nondenominational Potter's House Ministry in Dallas, has a national presence in this country via broadcasts on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and Black Entertainment Television (BET). To promote the film's release, Jakes is scheduled to appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" today (Friday).
At the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere and nabbed the event's top prize, Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles said Todd McCarthy's Variety review lead he and company acquisitions exec Tom Quinn to the movie. In the piece, McCarthy wrote, "Considering Jake's wide following, the pic should find a sizeable built-in audience among the church-affiliated Christian public, and to a certain extent beyond that in the black community, before moving on to a sturdy run in homevid."
With pre-sales for today's opening going well, according to Bowles, the company is unveiling the film nationally in commercial theaters rather than art-house venues, with a heavier concentration in the South. Bowles said that on October 22, he intends to rollout to other major markets. Bowles added that there is a greater focus on theaters in Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston, as well as smaller cities, which rarely see films from Magnolia, including Fayetteville, NC, Macon, GA and Dothan, AL.
"This is by far the largest scale release on every level that we've done," Bowles told indieWIRE. "But we feel that there is a sizeable target audience that we can reach, which gave us the fiscal confidence to take the leap."