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Now playing across Nigeria: The saga of a church that self-produced a few films and became an instant mogul in the country’s giant movie marketplace known as Nollywood.

It’s the latest — and perhaps most audacious — foray into mass culture by the Redeemed Christian Church of God. In less than a year, the church’s Dove Studios has gone from Nollywood greenhorns to barons.

Dove has several hits under its belt, a pile of scripts from Nollywood’s top filmmakers and the foundations for a nationwide distribution network that eventually could give it make-or-break influence over the entire industry — which churns out more than a dozen new films on DVDs and videos each week and is the principal entertainment market in Nigeria.

"We’re looking to make crossover movies," said Ope Banwo, head of the church’s World Dove Media Plc., which includes a satellite television division, a celebrity-oriented magazine and state-of-the-art studios that produce music videos and other works. "Our idea was to use popular, secular actors so the guy on the street doesn’t know what’s coming at him. … We’re softly getting him to watch evangelism."

The church stormed into Nollywood with its first four movies last year, including the English-language "The AIDS Patient" about an infected woman cured by the Holy Spirit and "Agan" (or "None Shall be Barren"), a story in the local Yoruba language about a pastor and his wife who finally conceive a baby after deep prayer.

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