Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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A new Christmas classic? That’s what ARC Entertainment CEO Trevor Drinkwater hopes he has on his hands with Pete’s ChristmasThe holiday-themed edition of Hallmark Channel’s Walden Family Theater joins Return to Nim’s Island, Space Warriors, Dear Dumb Diary, The Watsons Go to Birmingham and The Hunters as this season’s sixth original film produced for the franchise by ARC. It’s also the final original of the current season — begging the question, will there be more?

Pete’s Christmas offers a younger, yuletide take on Groundhog Day, the classic Bill Murray film about a hapless guy forced to live the same day over and over again. In this case that hapless guy is teenager named Pete (Zachary Gordon of Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

I spoke with Trevor Drinkwater about the film — and prospects for a second round of new family movies for Hallmark.

JWK: This is Walden Family Theater’s first holiday movie. How was Pete’s Christmas chosen for that honor?

TREVOR DRINKWATER: It came across our desk and (we) really thought it was a fun script — in particular, (we liked) the concept behind it and (the opportunity) to make a kind of very sweet film with a really strong message to it. We really got excited about it. And, also, the partners on this — Walmart and Procter & Gamble — November and December are their biggest months so having a holiday title worked out great for them as well.

JWK: Zachary Gordon and Bailee Madison (Parental Guidance), the two young leads, are excellent together.

TD: The chemistry between Bailey and Zachary is fantastic…I think the world of both of them. Not only are they fantastic at their craft, they’re just wonderful people. They have really strong hearts and I think that goes a long way in this business. They’re just very grounded and easy to deal with. Just lovely people. They’re a lot of fun.

JWK: Doing these films, do you take some heart and pride in helping to develop young talent such as theirs?

TD: Absolutely!  In particular with Bailee who we really, really like a lot. We think she’s such a talent…It’s funny. Over the weekend I watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid with my family. It was fun to see Zach when he was a younger kid — how talented he was (even) then and (to see how) he’s progressed and did such a great job for us in Pete’s Christmas…They’re really good kids and I think that’s a credit to their parents and how they’re bringing them up in the entertainment business — which can be a crazy business.

JWK: And with Bruce Dern playing Pete’s grandfather in the film, you really span the acting generations.

TD: That’s why we love this film. It’s funny. We did a friends and family screening this weekend in Santa Monica for lots of people that we’re close to and it was great to see the reactions of a lot of young kids there who just loved it and were really kind of drawn toward the relationship between Zach and Bailee. And then, you know, we had the grandparents that just loved Bruce Dern and some of his lines…People really enjoyed him and the loving relationship between the husband and wife. So, it’s one of those films that everybody can really enjoy. It touches a lot of different generations. Hopefully, it’s a film that people can watch over and over again.

JWK: They can experience it again and again — just like Zach’s character in the movie.

TD: That’s right!

JWK: We recently talked about The Hunters, your previous original production for the Walden Family Theater franchise. While also a family movie, it was quite different in that it was an action-adventure. How did it do?

TD: It had a good solid rating and (it just debuted) on DVD. It’s tracking really well. I’m very pleased with The Hunters.

JWK: And you were suggesting that one might become a series.

TD: We’re hoping! We think that could be a really fun series. We were kidding around (about) Pete’s Christmas that we could name the sequel Re-Pete.

JWK: Are you planning a sequel?

TD: We’d love to do one…We’re talking about it.

JWK: This is the final film of the six original family films that were part of the original Hallmark order. Is it looking good for more of them?

TD: Yeah, we’re hoping to do a slate next year again with Hallmark and, hopefully, expand it beyond. We think it works well for the advertisers as well as (the network and the audience). Commercially, they’re good projects for us to be working on.

JWK: Hallmark seems be building a major series presence — with, I think, at least three hour-long scripted shows given the go-ahead. So, there would seem to be some opportunity there.

TD: Yeah. They’re better at speaking about their strategy than I am (but) we really enjoy working with the folks over at Hallmark. They’re a good organization. They’ve had lots success over the last few years — in particular during the holiday time. They’re great. So, I expect them to continue to be extremely successful.

JWK: And what’s ahead for ARC Entertainment?

TD: We’ll continue to acquire and distribute films — primarily family, faith and animation. Those are the areas that we really focus on and spend most of our resources towards. We have a nice platform built out now to release films theatrically as well as now with the TV productions that we’ve been doing. So, well focus on both for sure.

Note: Tomorrow I’ll post a mini-review of Pete’s Christmas, along with an interview with Brian Wells, one of the film’s producers.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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