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'Jesus Revolution' and 'Chosen' Directors, Ex-Netflix Exec Form $75M Faith-Based Studio

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Two entertainment professionals have raised over $75 million to launch a production studio to create high-quality inspirational TV series and motion pictures for faith-based and values-oriented audiences.

Variety reports Director-Producer Jon Erwin, ('Jesus Revolution,' 'Woodlawn') and former YouTube and Netflix executive Kelly Merryman Hoogstraten have teamed up to create the WONDER Project – a new production company based in Los Angeles, California, and Austin, Texas. 

The two Hollywood alums see an enormous opportunity to establish a premium brand for faith-based and faith-infused content rooted in Christian traditions, according to the outlet. 

"I know there's opportunity here because I'm part of this audience," Erwin told Variety. "My wife and I have four kids. There's an audience that I serve with the content that we make. I need more of this in my home."

Hoogstraten will lead the new company as CEO. Erwin will serve as the independent studio's chief creative officer. 

High-profile Hollywood funding partners in the WONDER Project include Lionsgate, producer Jason Blum, United Talent Agency, Sovereign's Capital, and Powerhouse Capital.

Dallas Jenkins, the creator of "The Chosen," the popular and widely-acclaimed television series on the life of Jesus Christ, is a large shareholder in the new company. He will serve as a special advisor, and will also executive produce some of its content, Deadline reported. 

Other partnerships will also be announced in the future, according to the outlet.  

Besides developing its own distribution and streaming opportunities, the WONDER Project will also step up the scale and scope of its original content, aiming to sell television series and movies to mainstream media networks, streaming platforms, and film distribution companies, according to Variety.

"What if we could dream a little bigger? What if we could build a studio of our own that empowers creatives in this space with a level of freedom and resources they haven't had before," Erwin said. "We want to be partners with studios and streamers and anybody who wants to reach this audience in profound new ways. But we want to do it while building something that is independent and can last."

As CBN News has reported, Erwin directed Jesus Revolution. The breakout hit about the national spiritual awakening in the late 1960s and early 1970s found wide success since its premiere last February. The film was released by Lionsgate and earned more than $54 million in theaters. It opened at the box office at the number 3 spot and remained in the top 10 for several weeks, becoming Lionsgate's "biggest release in over four years."

Jesus Revolution also landed among the top 10 movies streaming on Netflix, reaching number 4 last August. 

Hoogstraten told Deadline their goal is to spread "hope" around the world.

"I believe entertainment sits upstream from culture. And today, the world needs a way to find common ground again," Hoogstraten said. "Here at The WONDER Project, our goal is to flood the world with hope. I am convinced we can make a difference by telling stories that restore hope in things worth believing in – family, community, God, and America. We will do this at scale for a global audience that seeks faith and values-driven entertainment. And we will give the audience a brand they can call their own."

The new company already has around a dozen writers who are working on scripts, according to Variety

Erwin told the outlet Hollywood's largest studios are realizing the {faith} audience is enormous and underserved. 

"They're also realizing there's an inherent gap between their knowledge of content and their knowledge of this audience," he explained. "They don't know how to seize that opportunity. We're going to build a bridge between those two worlds."



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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of