Celluloid Sermons

The Emergence of the Christian Film Industry, 1930-1986

287 pages

23 illustrations

October, 2011

ISBN: 9780814753248



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Terry Lindvall is C. S. Lewis Chair of Communication and Christian Thought at Virginia Wesleyan College. He is the author of Sanctuary Cinema: Origins of the Christian Film Industry and God Mocks: A History of Religious Satire from the Hebrew Prophets to Stephen Colbert.

All books by Terry Lindvall

Andrew Quicke is Professor in the Communication and the Arts Department at Regent University and the author of several books, most recently (with Andrew Laszlo) Every Frame a Rembrandt: The Art and Practice of Cinematography

All books by Andrew Quicke

Christian filmmaking, done outside of the corporate Hollywood industry and produced for Christian churches, affected a significant audience of church people. Protestant denominations and individuals believed that they could preach and teach more effectively through the mass medium of film. Although suspicion toward the film industry marked many conservatives during the early 1930s, many Christian leaders came to believe in the power of technology to convert or to morally instruct people. Thus the growth of a Christian film industry was an extension of the Protestant tradition of preaching, with the films becoming celluloid sermons.

Celluloid Sermons is the first historical study of this phenomenon. Terry Lindvall and Andrew Quicke highlight key characters, studios, and influential films of the movement from 1930 to 1986—such as the Billy Graham Association, with its major WorldWide Pictures productions of films like The Hiding Place, Ken Curtis’ Gateway Films, the apocalyptic “end-time” films by Mark IV (e.g. Thief in the Night), and the instructional video-films of Dobson’s Focus on the Family--assessing the extent to which the church’s commitment to filmmaking accelerated its missions and demonstrating that its filmic endeavors had the unintended consequence of contributing to the secularization of liberal denominations.


  • "This will be a valuable addition to academic collections with strong religious studies and/or communications programs."

    —S.B. Plate, CHOICE

  • "highly informative volume"

    American Studies

  • "Lindvall and Quicke's Celluloid Sermons is a history of the Christian film industry that undertakes the gargantuan task of outlining its unique production, distribution and exhibition practices.  Detailing different key contributors, it provides a loosely chronological look at the development of this breakaway cottage industry from the 1930s through to the 1980s."

    —Hannah Graves, Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies

  • "Enthusiasts of American religion and film will find a treasure trove as the authors catalog with wit and anecdotal flair the movies, producers, and trends that constituted this fledgling ‘Christian film industry."

    —William D. Romanowski, Calvin College

  •  “Reveals an entirely new area of intersection between Christianity and cinema. Celluloid Sermons provides a foundational study of how Christian groups used film as part of the construction of their own identities. A ‘must read’ for any scholar or layperson interested in American history, culture, and religion.”

    —Anne Moore, University of Calgary

  • “Through ground breaking research, Lindvall and Quicke uncover forgotten films from Protestant producers like Irwin Moon, Carlos Baptista, and Ken Curtis. The earnest, embarrassing, and energizing are all recounted with respect and rigor.”

    —Craig Detweiler, Pepperdine University