Studio Behind ‘Sound of Freedom’ Breaks Through Hollywood Barriers With Crowdfunding
Angel Studios’ “Sound of Freedom,” a film that wrapped production five years ago before it became dust-laden sitting on the shelves at Disney, has now grossed $85 million, making it the official sleeper hit of summer.
Making its success even more significant, the indie smash released July Fourth was made from a paltry $14.5 million budget and played in fewer cinemas than current franchise films Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One” and Harrison Ford’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”
The weekend box office saw the crowd-funded indie gross another $24.7 million. On Sunday, it saw a rush in ticket sales when it made 27-plus percent more in one day than the previous week, according to Box Office Mojo.
That’s as summer blockbusters like “Dead Reckoning Part One” took in $80 million over an extended five-day opening (below its $100 million expectation), and in its third week, “Dial of Destiny” added $11 million to its domestic total of $145 million. Analysts say “Indy 5” won’t come close to making $500 million worldwide, which means the action movie won’t near its break-even mark at $800 million.
“While the entire summer movie box office lineup is underperforming, our small independent film continues to grow week over week. Driven by millions of fans and supporters, Sound of Freedom has become a national—and soon international—movement for change,” Jared Geesey, senior vice president of global distribution at Angel Studios, said in a statement.
Audiences Willing to Witness Heavy Subject Matter Amid Media Attacks
The film, which stars Jim Caviezel, addresses the difficult topic of child sex trafficking. The fact that it seems to have succeeded at getting audiences to examine that heavy subject matter during what is the traditional summer movie season full of big action blockbusters and laugh-out-loud comedies has proven particularly remarkable to critics and analysts.
Equally remarkable is the journey the film itself had to undergo to finally make it to audiences.
Angel Studios crowdfunded $5 million to distribute the movie after 20th Century Fox previously had the film rights before it was bought by The Walt Disney Company in 2019. Disney then shelved it. The film’s producer, Eduardo Verastegui, managed to get back the rights to eventually release it this year despite the fact the movie wrapped production in 2018.
Mr. Caviezel, in a special on-screen message upon the film’s conclusion, noted that the film “wasn’t released until now, with every roadblock that you can imagine being tossed in the way.”
Meanwhile, some media outlets have tried to link the film to QAnon conspiracy theories.
For instance, Rolling Stone writer Mile Klee wrote an op-ed titled “‘Sound Of Freedom’ Is a Superhero Movie for Dads With Brainworms” while it was subtitled “The QAnon-tinged thriller about child-trafficking is designed to appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer.”
In the piece, Mr. Klee described Mr. Caviezel as “a prominent figure on the conspiracist right, giving speeches and interviews in which he hints at an underground holy war between patriots and a sinister legion of evildoers who are harvesting the blood of children.”
Yet, amidst the controversy and press spin, the film has also garnered support from Elon Musk and celebrities like Jewel and Mel Gibson.
Crowdfunding Model Makes Everyone an Investor
Angel Studios, the film distribution studio/video-on-demand service behind the popular movie, has bucked the entire Hollywood studio system. It uses equity crowdfunding to finance its original productions by offering individual investors the chance to purchase shares in the company and its titles.
Content produced by Angel Studios is also distributed for free on the company’s streaming service, while some titles are available through distribution deals on other third-party streaming services.
“Every show and film we create will have a community aspect behind it,” Mr. Geesey told The Epoch Times, noting that 7,000 people invested $5 million to bring “Sound of Freedom” to theaters. “When you’re engaging in content from Angel Studios, then you know the crowd is behind it.”
Mr. Geesey noted the studio’s “pay it forward” aspect with its patented technology, which he said is a big part of the engine that’s driving its success. Through a provided QR code, viewers are invited to pay for other people to watch the film.
He dubbed the community of investors the “Angel Guild,” which he described as the “100 thousand investors across the world” who, unlike the Hollywood studio model where a few executives decide what comes through on media platforms, select the content.
“So no executive can green light content,” said Mr. Geesey. “The way we decide is by asking the people what content they want.”
The Angel Guild was behind selecting “Sound of Freedom.”
Angel Studios released the faith-based indie film “His Only Son” earlier this year, which was reportedly profitable. Its TV series, the historical Christian drama “The Chosen” about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, is said to be one of the most successful crowdfunded TV series in existence.
More movies are set to be released, including “The Shift,” a dystopian science fiction drama expected to premiere in December.
Content Choices Based on Uplifting Principles
Mr. Geesey said content comes from asking the following two questions: 1. Does this content amplify light, which is defined as “anything that is good, noble and inspired by values” and 2. How disappointed would we be if this content didn’t come to Angel Studios?
“Only six percent of the content gets green-lighted, and anybody can join and be a part of the Guild choosing the content that will impact the culture tomorrow,” explained Mr Geesey.
“We invite the best content creators,” he said.
Mr. Geesey also noted how the model behind Angel Studios means sets viewing the success of its content totally apart from the traditional studio model.
“It’s really different from a Hollywood opening weekend when it comes to finding out if you have an audience,” said Mr Geesey. “For us, we’re going to watch and celebrate with the community of the people who created and brought it to the world through their investments.”