Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF - News), the leading independent filmed entertainment studio, announced that it will partner with gospel music icon Kirk Franklin to develop CHURCH BOY, a screen version of his inspirational life story. The announcement was made by Lionsgate President of Production Mike Paseornek. Franklin will star in the film and compose its soundtrack, which will include old favorites in addition to several brand-new songs.
Franklin will produce CHURCH BOY along with Paul Hall (PRIDE, JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION, HIGHER LEARNING), Bobby Smith Jr. (screenwriter, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, screenwriter/co-producer JASON'S LYRIC), and Emmy Award-winning casting director Robi Reed (casting THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN, co-producer NEVER DIE ALONE), who will also cast the film. Will Young will co-produce. Lionsgate Music Publishing will work closely with Franklin and his publishers on the newly-created compositions and will co-publish those works.
The deal continues the expansion of Lionsgate's portfolio of African-American and faith-based properties, such as the Tyler Perry films DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN, MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION and the upcoming DADDY'S LITTLE GIRLS; the family drama AKEELAH AND THE BEE; and the film adaptation of best-selling African-American novelist Zane's erotic thriller ADDICTED.
Said Paseornek, "We are very excited to welcome Kirk Franklin to the Lionsgate family. Kirk is an incredible talent who has touched countless lives through his music and his spiritual message. To hear his story is to realize how faith and dedication can help a person overcome the most daunting obstacles. With Kirk playing himself and bringing in brand-new songs -- audiences are sure to be feeling the spirit with CHURCH BOY."
Commented Franklin, "Lionsgate is the perfect home for CHURCH BOY. This is a studio that has made a strong and genuine commitment to African-American audiences and faith-based audiences. Lionsgate puts everything they have behind their films, and they are endlessly creative and resourceful in reaching the commercial marketplace."
CHURCH BOY is the rags-to-riches story of Kirk Franklin, abandoned by his teenage mother and raised by a great aunt in Ft. Worth, Texas. A precocious musical talent, Kirk is directing a church choir by age 11. But as he enters his teens in a tough neighborhood mired in poverty and rife with drugs, street violence, and easy sex, Kirk grows rebellious and loses his way. As his life spirals out of control, Kirk undergoes a dramatic conversion ... and begins a remarkable journey towards stardom.
Kirk Franklin is the top-selling gospel artist in the SoundScan era. In 1994, he changed the face of contemporary gospel with his debut album, "Kirk Franklin and the Family," which introduced elements of R&B, hip-hop, rock and pop to traditional gospel. It became the first gospel album to sell more than a million units. To date, Franklin has recorded six albums, earning three Grammy Awards; 11 Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association; and 33 Stellar Awards, honoring African-American gospel artists. Franklin's latest CD, "Hero," was released on his Fo Yo Soul Entertainment label in October 2005 to rave reviews. It debuted in the #1 position on Billboard Magazine's Top Gospel Album and Top Christian Albums charts, and reached #4 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Album chart, and #13 on the Billboard 200. Well-known for his dynamic performances, Franklin recently completed the first leg of his critically acclaimed "Hero Tour," playing to sold-out venues across the country.
A businessman and youth pastor as well as a musician, Franklin has launched Fo Yo Soul Entertainment, Inc., a multi-tiered venture that reflects his dedication to music, faith, and community services. The Fo Yo Soul Entertainment properties include a record label, a production company, an advertising agency, a full service youth outreach initiative, and a cutting edge urban-styled youth ministry, NuNation Ministries, LLC. Exemplifying Franklin's fresh spiritual approach, NuNation Ministries offers bi-weekly presentations filled with dance, rappers, acting, singing, DJ'S, spoken word, and other forms that express the perspectives of young people and encourage them to share their faith in innovative ways.
A husband and father, Franklin was recently named Faith Ambassador to The Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a private, nonprofit organization that for more than 30 years has provided a strong, effective voice for children in America. In this new role, Franklin will help promote the tenth anniversary of CDF's "Stand for Children" initiative and advocate for better policy choices affecting the 37 million Americans, 13 million of them children, living in poverty.