New film Old Fashioned is 50 Shades of Grey for Christians, claims its creator

Rik Swartzwelder says the movie - which will be released simultaneously with its rival - is more spiritual than sexual - a love story without BDSM

Los Angeles

Christian Grey has a love rival: Christians. When the hotly anticipated screen adaptation of EL James’s BDSM-themed bestseller 50 Shades of Grey arrives in US cinemas next Valentine’s Day, it will have to share the box office with a faith-based romantic drama, Old Fashioned.

More spiritual than sexual, Old Fashioned will “tell a love story that takes the idea of Godly romance seriously”, said its writer-director-star, Rik Swartzwelder, in a statement announcing his film’s release date.

“[It’s] a story that, without apology, explores the possibility of a higher standard in relationships, yet is also fully aware of just how fragile we all are and doesn’t seek to heap guilt upon those of us that have made mistakes,” he added.

Backed by the Christian film finance firm Working Title Agency and distribution company Freestyle, Old Fashioned will be “the first faith-based theatrical release to specifically target the underserved Christian singles audience”, said Freestyle co-president Mark Borde.

The story follows “a former frat boy” and “a free-spirited woman” as they attempt an “‘old-fashioned’ courtship in contemporary America”. The film’s tagline is “chivalry makes a comeback”.

The filmmakers also plan to publish a novel of Old Fashioned, though it seems unlikely to make the same impact as the three books in the 50 Shades trilogy, which have sold well over 100 million copies.

Ms James’s erotic drama charts in unsparing detail the sexual escapades of its title character, the buff young business magnate Christian Grey, and his bookish, college student lover, Anastasia Steele.

The first trailer for the film version of 50 Shades of Grey, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, was released on 24 July and, according to the marketing firm Zefr, has already accumulated 36.4 million YouTube views in its first week online – more than any other trailer in 2014.

Comparing the cinematic contest between the two films to the biblical tale of David and Goliath, Mr Swartzwelder said 50 Shades “will have more screens, more money, more hype… but we’re hopeful that we are not alone in our belief that there are others out there who desire more from love – and the movies – than objectification or domination”.

 

Working Title Agency and Freestyle recently partnered on another faith-based film, God’s Not Dead, a college drama about a Christian student who is challenged to prove the existence of God by his cranky philosophy professor, played by Kevin Sorbo, the star of TV’s Hercules. That film has made more than $60m (£35m) at the US box office.

Working Title Agency also helped in the marketing of Heaven is For Real, a new Sony Pictures film based on the bestselling book by Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo, whose four-year-old son claimed to have gone to Heaven and back while unconscious during an emergency appendectomy.

Colton Burpo said he had met Jesus during his visit, and that the Son of God rode a rainbow-coloured horse. The film adaptation starring Greg Kinnear as Mr Burpo is currently in US cinemas, where it has made more than $90m at the box office.

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