With "China Cry," Crouch said, "a whole new door is opening up to this army of the Lord: theater doors. And into this dark corner of our world we are going to shine the light of the Gospel! . . . The church let the evil one have the great motion picture media."
The director's goals are considerably more modest. "I became involved (in 'China Cry') because I thought there ought to be one show that's inspirational coming out of the industry each year," Collier said after one screening.
This is not Crouch's first involvement with motion pictures. In 1961-65, he headed the department of TV and film production for the Assemblies of God in Burbank. In August, 1988, he used Trinity to help mobilize--on extremely short notice--a rally at Universal Studios in Burbank that drew 25,000 people to protest the release of "The Last Temptation of Christ." Crouch called on Lew Wasserman, Universal's chairman, to allow the outraged fundamentalists to buy the film and, in Crouch's words, "burn it at the stake."
Penland, the distributor, resigned his position as Universal's liaison with the evangelical community to help organize opposition to "The Last Temptation of Christ."
In a telephone interview last week, Crouch acknowledged that it was the controversy over "The Last Temptation" that propelled him into film production. "That's one of things that impelled me to get involved, instead of cursing the darkness," Crouch said. "I saw a real need in the area of the motion-picture field. . . . We are not only hoping to reach the present film-going public, but we're also hoping to appeal to that large segment of the population that has stopped going to the movies."
The producing experience provided him with an education. As "a complete neophyte," Crouch said, the countless details and decisions of movie-making "took much more of my time than I thought it would."
For more than a year, Crouch has been using his nonprofit, tax-exempt network to build support for "China Cry," talking about it regularly on his prime-time talk show, "Praise," and reporting on its progress, both in documentary reports from the set in Hong Kong by Crouch's son, Matt, and in the broadcast ministry's newsletter. (Neither Crouch took fees for his work on the picture.)
In recent weeks, clips from the film have appeared frequently during Trinity's 24-hour-a-day Christian programming, seen locally on the network's flagship, KTBN-Channel 40.
Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Trinity's involvement in the film business has been in financial backing and distribution plans for "China Cry." Crouch simply asked viewers to \o7 give \f7 money to make the film, rather than invest. Any money brought in by "China Cry," Crouch said, would be put into a revolving fund to make more movies. (One idea, Crouch said, would be a film version of the biblical Battle of Armageddon, complete with special effects and climaxing with the Second Coming.)
One person who responded to Crouch's appeal--to the tune of $40,000--was John F. Long, a Phoenix home developer. Through the charitable foundation that bears his name, Long donated the money to Crouch.
Long said in a telephone interview that he had seen Lam on Trinity and had read her book. When Crouch made his appeal to support the movie, Long simply picked up the phone and did so.
"I think the type of movies that are being produced that young people are seeing, all the crime and violence, has an adverse affect," he said. "The reason I made the donation is that I believe I'm making an investment in the future of our young people. . . . It's important for the younger generation . . . to understand that miracles \o7 do \f7 happen in modern times."
Crouch has asked supporters, on the air and in the network's monthly newsletter, to fill in reservation coupons--a "faith promise"--committing them to buy blocks of tickets to the movie when it plays in their area. The aim, he wrote, is "to secure the partnership of a major distributor so that the film will be seen by the world, and not just by Christians."
Under the plan, called "Advance Purchase Discount Tickets," in exchange for reserving blocks of 25 to 1,000 tickets, individuals receive a 20% discount. Groups, Crouch wrote, "may use this as an opportunity to gain a profit for their own ministries." (Despite this support for "China Cry," Crouch cautioned that support for the film "must come from your entertainment budget and not from your regular TBN gifts of support.")
Tickets for the 1981 Academy Award-winning "Chariots of Fire" and "The Mission" were sold in a similar fashion by various religious organizations.