When I was still in high school, my church, Union Chapel in Bryant, Indiana, hosted a series of "Christian" films. It was a great outreach event. On a series of Sunday evenings we watched "A Thief in the Night," "A Distant Thunder," "Image of the Beast" and "The Prodigal Planet." The movies were all about prophecy and the end times. It was an interpretive look at what will happen just before Jesus returns to earth.
I remember the intentions of my church family being noble. I also remember inviting some friends from school. A couple of my friends came at least once. Chris, who never went to church anywhere, came with a large, paper grocery sack filled with popcorn. Not everyone was glad to see his snacks in the sanctuary of our pretty little church.
The problem was that the movies were terrible. The acting stunk. The productions values were poor. The print that was shown in my church was awful. Although our hearts were in the right place and our congregation was doing a good thing, the movies failed to produce a positive result. In fact, I was embarrassed by them and my visiting friends spent a lot of energy making fun of the movies, and maybe even the church people who supported them.
There are a couple of excuses available for producers of Christian films. First of, because the market for Christian films is so small, the budgets of these productions is necessarily small in comparison to the typical movie coming out of Hollywood. Although some may argue (myself included) that the best films are not big-budget Hollywood productions, we are still at a disadvantage.
Since there is not as much money available for Christian films, that means that those who would like to make them are at a disadvantage. They do not have the resources or the experience to make Hollywood-quality films. Someone with deep convictions about making wholesome and uplifting movies may never get the opportunity to learn how to do that very thing.
Some things have changed through the years, however. Recent Christian films seem to be making some headway in the production values department. For example, although they are not up to par with Hollywood standards, the Left Behind movies (http://www.cloudtenpictures.com/) deal with the same subject matter as the earlier mentioned films and have come a long way in terms of quality.
Recently, the center of Christian film making has seemed to center around a church in the south. Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia has made three respectable contributions to the Christian film genre. (http://www.sherwoodpictures.com/) Flywheel(http://revdeweysworld.blogspot.com/2007/11/flywheel.html), Facing the Giants, and Fireproof have each provided an emotional tug and each one is better than the one before.
I will mention two others that I have seen recently. The Visitation is based on a Frank Peretti novel and deals with spiritual warfare and the power of God. Three is from a Ted Dekker book. It is the story of a seminary student being stalked and targeted by a serial killer.
Do not expect to see huge special effects and Tinseltown glitter in any of these films, but know that they are getting better.