Santorum: 'I Want to Be the Pixar of Faith'

Movie promotion and politics have much in common.

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Singer Susan Boyle, left, makes her acting debut in "The Christmas Candle," the first film by EchoLight Studios since GOP presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took over as CEO in June.
Singer Susan Boyle, left, makes her acting debut in "The Christmas Candle," the first film by EchoLight Studios since GOP presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took over as CEO in June.

Rick Santorum has fought this fight before. The former Pennsylvania senator and GOP presidential candidate took over as CEO of EchoLight Studios in June and on Friday will see the first film he worked on, "The Christmas Candle," hit theaters.

"We're an independent distributor, so to get our movies in the theater is harder," Santorum says. "To get our trailers played is harder, to get our posters up is harder, we have to work at that," he told Whispers. And, on top of it all, "The Christmas Candle" has go up against the popular "Hunger Games," with the second movie of that franchise also coming out Friday.

"The nice thing is there's a lot of commonality," Santorum said, likening movie promotion to a political campaign.

"If it's the 'Hunger Games' or 'Iron Man,' you just go out there and you put $200 million or $100 million in advertising and then you're everywhere, you're on everything," Santorum said. "And that's one way to run a campaign, you know, that's the Romney way of running a campaign," he said, noting his former GOP primary rival.

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The Santorum way is smaller and scrappier: "Which is you have a million dollars and not $100 million and you go out and try and build support at the grass roots level."

In another parallel to politics, the constituency who voted for a Santorum presidency is also the group he's hoping to attract to the movies: conservatives and Christians. "I've been very upfront about the fact that we're going to do faith-oriented films," Santorum explained.

"The Christmas Candle," which also marks singer Susan Boyle's acting debut and "Les Miserables'" Samantha Barks' return to the big screen, is centered around a reverend (Hans Matheson) and his faith. Matheson's character moves to Gladbury, a tiny town in the English countryside, and struggles with his congregation's steadfast belief in a "Christmas Candle," that doles out a miracle every 25 years.

"Hollywood does a lot of wonderful, inspiration movies, but they really don't do faith," Santorum explained. "And most of the time you'll have a faith story and they'll try to scrub faith out of it because they want it to [have a] broader appeal, they say." And then there's the problem with the current crop of Christian movies, that suffer from small budgets and thus disappointed audiences, Santorum said.

"I want to sort of be the Pixar of faith," Santorum said, explaining that for many Pixar signifies something special. "I'm not saying we're a Pixar, we're not, but that's what I want to accomplish, that when you see EchoLight you say, 'Oh they are going to have a movie about faith that's going to be good quality and it's something that I can take my chances with.'"

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"The Christmas Candle" will be released in about 400 theaters nationally, many of which are located in the South and in Texas, though the film is also playing in a handful of theaters in California and Washington State. As opening night approaches, Santorum says he's getting the same jitters as he did when facing an election. "Friday night's a big night," he said. "Whether we've been successful at getting our word out about this and that's really what I'm focused on right now," he said.

So no 2016? "Am I still interested in that area? Yes, but I haven't made any decisions yet," Santorum, the politician, answered. "I probably won't for a year."

And, ever being the underdog, Santorum also responded to the fact that Karl Rove last week didn't name Santorum among the serious GOP 2016 contenders. "I'd go back and look what Karl said four years ago, 'who would be the main challenger to Mitt Romney?' I guarantee you that...he wouldn't have even commented," Santorum said. "I'm not surprised...people always underestimate me."

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