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Crowd-funding no longer the Chosen model for Christian creators dependent on charity

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Despite raising millions of dollars each year, Dallas Jenkins has said that donations don’t just have to cover the rising costs of production and distribution. Photo: The Chosen TV
Despite raising millions of dollars each year, Dallas Jenkins has said that donations don’t just have to cover the rising costs of production and distribution. Photo: The Chosen TV

The Chosen is the most popular Christian TV in years, but while Christians are statistically the most charitable faith in the world, the show’s crowd-funded finance model is flagging—which might feel familiar to anyone who’s patted their pockets as the collection plate is passed around at church.

Released on 1 February, the first two episodes of The Chosen’s highly-anticipated Season 4 hit select cinemas across Australia.

Series creator Dallas Jenkins announced plans for the fourth season’s theatrical release at “The Chosen Insiders Conference” in Dallas, last October, after the box office success of its third season.

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But as scheduled dates came and went without a single episode being released, many fans of The Chosen went online to voice their disapproval over the prioritisation of theatres over free streaming services.

Jenkins addressed complaints in mid-March in a candid video on the financial realities of producing a free-to-stream series, revealing that the delay was sadly less the fault of greedy studios and more of frugal fans.

“I’ve seen comments on social media about how The Chosen is selling out, or ‘They’re delaying the free streaming because they’re just trying to just try to make as much money as they can,’” Jenkins said.

“I wish we made enough money on the theatrical to justify that accusation, but you just need to understand the financial and logistical ramifications of how all of this works.

“As fun as [the theatrical release] has been and as successful as it has been by a lot of objective measurements, it’s a way for us to try to be more sustainable and to be able to try to keep this show free and keep our company going now.”

Raising millions of dollars each year, it may seem like there is overwhelming support for the show, but donations don’t just have to cover the rising costs of production and distribution.

They also pay for over 60 full-time employees who look after the global efforts of the show’s social media, marketing, legal, finances and translation.

These funds come from fewer than 5 per cent of the show’s viewers, who either pay-it-forward or donate to the Come and See foundation, a charity which supports The Chosen.

Now when you have films like Sound of Freedom grossing more than $250 million in theatres alone, making more in one month than The Chosen makes in one year, it’s clear why Jenkins is looking to a more sustainable model.

More traditional pay-to-watch funding models have proven successful, not just for its former partner Angel Studios, but more notably for media company Daily Wire.

While Angels studios have raised millions from its cause-focused films like Sound of Freedom and Cabrini, conservative content creators Daily Wire have built a $150 million empire around that same pay-to-watch premise.

With a majority of its compelling content behind a subscription paywall, Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing has been able to fund multiple million-dollar projects, including its most recent initiative Bentkey, a children’s entertainment company aimed at competing directly with Disney.

“Disney as a corporation pushes all the worst excesses of the woke left, paying for its employees to travel for abortions, promoting ‘anti-racism indoctrination of its employees’ and going to war on behalf of radical left-wing social policy,” said Boreing, in his announcement on Bentkey’s launch.

As Daily Wire continues to grow well past 1 million subscribers, as reported in 2022, it is clear that Christians are happy to put their money where their mouths are—for conservative crusaders.

For all its popularity, The Chosen is a product, not a spiritual service, and without turning a profit the show may never make it to the Passion and Jonathan Roumie’s resurrection from the dead as Jesus. It’s no small irony that to keep making the blockbuster Christian show, it seems Christian charity isn’t enough.

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