Fans have raised millions to fund a third season of The Chosen, a Christian TV series about the adult life of Jesus and his disciples, plus an upcoming Christmas special expected to premiere in movie theaters.
Last winter, 2,000 people reportedly gathered on a grassy slope in Midlothian, Texas, to shoot the season finale of The Chosen, and none of these people had any ties to a Hollywood studio, network, or streaming service, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Additionally, most of the extras had paid $1,000 each to be part of the climactic scene leading up to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Now, construction crews are reportedly building an estimated $20 million production complex dedicated to the series.
The Chosen has also been translated into 50 languages, and producers estimate that its 16 episodes have been viewed 312 million times.
Now, roughly 1,700 theaters are expected to feature screenings of a Chosen Christmas special on December 1. The special will reportedly include musical performances and a new episode in which Mary has a flashback to her son’s birth.
The series grew out of a short film and fundraising messages that filmmaker Dallas Jenkins posted online in 2017, and some 16,000 people paid at least $100 each to fund the shooting of the first season in 2018, reportedly budgeted at $11 million, according to WSJ.
Moreover, the initial financial investors of the show received an equity stake in the company that produced the series. They got shares in The Chosen LLC and could eventually share in any profits from the show and other revenue sources, such as sales of Chosen t-shirts and Bible study books co-written by Amanda Jenkins, the creator’s wife.
While The Chosen is free to watch, viewers have also reportedly poured $40 million — and counting — into its production budget, which is enough to pay for three out of its planned seven seasons.
The costs of building new production facilities — on a 1,200-acre camp owned by the Salvation Army — are also being covered by a smaller group of the show’s fans.
The success of The Chosen is powerful testimony that that there is a faith-focused void in Hollywood, and people are willing to fill it by funding their own projects which go on to become breakthrough hits.
Authentic Christian films have already proved to be huge moneymakers for Hollywood studios, despite still being dismissed by many in the entertainment business as “not part of mainstream Hollywood fare.”