Then you need to know about The Copyright Act. Title 17 of the United States Code says that it is illegal to show a movie in any public venue, including churches, clubs, camps and schools* without a movie license. Even inadvertent infringers are subject to significant penalties (as much as $150,000 per exhibition — see Section 506) for doing a public showing without a proper movie license.
If you are planning to do a church movie night, it's important to note that many of the umbrella-style licenses do not allow you to promote your movie event using the movie title, characters or the producers in any external/public advertisement/publicity. In fact, many movie producers are moving toward a licensing model that allows churches to use their films as outreach resources, provides significant promotion for their film, and a larger share of the license revenues to fund new films in the future, like the licenses provided by Outreach.
At Outreach Films we've worked with producers to not only provide you with a movie license that allows you to show the movie for an entire year, it also allows you to promote your event by talking about the specific movie you will be showing. Plus, many of the films Outreach provides include web and social media graphics and even discussion questions. Some films also have coordinated promotional materials, small group curriculum or even sermons available for purchase separately so you can plan a church-wide event around your movie night.
So don't risk a hefty fine, get your movie licensed and then be sure to invite your whole community to join in on the fun!
Engage your church and your community in a whole new way with digital licensed films from Outreach! Movies are a universal communication tool, allowing you connect with audiences from every age group, culture and background. All Outreach films include the annual site-licenses required by law, allowing you to show the movie multiple times during the year to different ministries or audiences in your building. Some faith-based films also have coordinated sermon series, small group studies and invitation tools so you can create a full church-wide campaign around the movie's themes. Outreach offers blockbuster movies and licenses that have been carefully selected for messaging and content that is wholesome, faith-friendly and safe for a variety of viewers.
*Non-profit schools can show movies without a movie license for "face-to-face teaching activities" — the details of what is included under this exception are outlined in Section 110(1).
To help make Movie Events more affordable, the price is based on the average weekly attendance of your church. If you are not a church, you will need to purchase a STANDARD Package or License (this includes schools, para-church organizations and other ministries not attached to a church). If you are a traveling ministry and you will do showings at different churches, you will need to buy a separate license for each location. If you have questions please call 800-991-6011.
Try These Top Christian Movies for Your Church Movie Night
Need a good Christian movie to show at your next church movie night? This list has 10 of our favorites -- which one will you choose?
Are you ready to host a church Christian movie night? Grab some popcorn, a projector, and a great film. Here are 10 of our top Christian movies your church and community are sure to enjoy:
Paul, Apostle of Christ
Paul, Apostle of Christ is the story of two men. Luke, as a friend and physician, risks his life when he ventures into the city of Rome to visit Paul, who is held captive in Nero’s darkest, bleakest prison cell.
Nero is determined to rid Rome of Christians, and does not flinch from executing them in the grisliest ways possible. Before Paul’s death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of “The Way” and the birth of what will come to be known as the church.
Bound in chains, Paul’s struggle is internal. He has survived “floggings, shipwreck, starvation, stoning, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure” yet as he waits for his appointment with death, he is haunted by the shadows of his past misdeeds.
Alone in the dark, he wonders if he has been forgotten . . . and if he has the strength to finish well.
Soul Surfer is the inspiring true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton. In the wake of the life-changing shark attack that took her arm and nearly her life, Bethany’s feisty fortitude and steadfast faith spur her toward an adventurous comeback that turns her loss into a gift for others.
This is a perfect movie to inspire viewers of all ages and to open conversations about the power of faith, hope, and God’s love. Watching Soul Surfer is a creative way to help families in your church learn to support one another, persevere during adversity, and embrace God’s plan for their lives.
Soul Surfer features an all-star cast including AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood in her film debut, and Dennis Quaid.
Miracles from Heaven
Based on a true story, Miracles From Heaven depicts the Beam family as they encounter God’s unfailing love and constant presence during an incredible journey from hardship to healing.
When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughters healing as she searches for a solution.
After Anna has a freak accident and falls three stories, a miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored, and their community inspired.
God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
A deadly fire rips through St. James Church, devastating the congregation and Pastor Dave. Adjoining Hadleigh University uses the tragedy to kick the congregation off campus. The escalating controversy creates a dilemma for the small church. Can Christians fight for their rights and be the light for Christ at the same time?
Facing a court case and his own struggle to see Christ’s light in heartbreak, Dave asks for help from Pearce, his estranged brother. The family reunion opens old wounds, as the brothers wrestle with the questions that pulled them apart years ago:
A church destroyed. A congregation silenced. A relationship shattered. Yet even in life’s darkest valleys, a small flame can light the way toward healing and hope.
The Grace Card
The Grace Card is a compelling story that shows everything can change in an instant … and take a lifetime to unravel. The movie’s powerful message reminds us that each day, we have the opportunity to rebuild relationships and heal deep wounds by extending and receiving God’s grace.
Utilize this Christian movie with the matching church kit and small group materials to help your church and community witness–and experience–the power of forgiveness!
I Can Only Imagine
Bart Millard’s inspiring real-life story behind the beloved MercyMe song “I Can Only Imagine” will encourage your church community in a whole new way. It is a gripping reminder of the power of forgiveness, beautifully illustrating that no one is ever too far from God’s love—or from an eternal home in Heaven.
The song may have been written in mere minutes, but the inspiration behind lyrics took developed over a lifetime.
I’m Not Ashamed
The Columbine Massacre of April 20, 1999 completely redefined America’s view of the lives of high school students. Drawn straight from Columbine victim Rachel Joy Scott’s words and journal entries, through the insight of her mother, Beth Nimmo, I’m Not Ashamed is the true story of a high school student whose compassionate, caring faith caused her to reach out to fellow students including her killers who made her a target of their murderous plan.
The Case for Christ
The Case for Christ is the true story of an award-winning investigative journalist—and avowed atheist—who set out to use his well-honed journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife, with unexpected, life-altering results.
Utilizing his journalistic and legal training, Lee begins a quest to debunk the claims of Christianity in order to save his crumbling marriage. Chasing down the biggest story of his career, Lee comes face-to-face with unexpected results that could change everything he knows to be true.
Share God’s Love Through Good Christian Movies
Movies give you the unique ability to connect with audiences from every age group, culture, and background. Engage your church and your community in a whole new way with the best Christian movies from Outreach!
All Outreach films include the annual site-licenses required by law, allowing you to show the movie multiple times during the year to different ministries or audiences in your building.
Some of these top Christian movies also have coordinated sermon series, small group studies, and invitation tools so you can create a church-wide campaign around the movie’s themes.
5 Tips for Hosting a Successful Church Movie Night
Easy ways to make your church movie night a big success.
Looking for a new event idea? Keep reading about one of the most popular church events! Hosting a church movie night is an effective way to invite your community to come visit your church and get to know you. Movie nights are no-pressure events, and encourage people who might not otherwise attend to visit and find out what your church is all about. It’s also an impactful outreach to support your community with inspiring messages about God, love, family, marriage, and more. What makes for a successful church movie night? Here are some movie night ideas for you!
Pick the Perfect Movie
When deciding to host a church movie night, the first thing to determine is your theme. This will help you pick the right film. Are you planning a date night event? Choose a love-affirming romance. Are you looking for a simple night of entertainment and community? Select a movie that’s universally appealing and uplifting. Think about the needs of your community and work to meet them when selecting your film.
Outreach allows you to browse by audience, theme and genre, so you can find the perfect film for your church movie night.
Purchase a Movie License
Did you know that copyright law requires you to purchase a movie license to screen a film outside the privacy of your home, even if you already own the film? There are big, expensive penalties, even if you screen a film without knowing a license was required. Fortunately, licenses are very affordable! You select your license based on your overall church attendance and they are good for a year from the date of purchase. Make sure you purchase the license before you advertise your church movie night.
Share Your Church Movie Night
Add your church movie night information to your promotional materials (posters, InviteTickets, and bulletin inserts). Show your congregation the movie trailer to get them excited to share the event with their friends and family. Create fliers and canvass your surrounding neighborhood with them, send out direct mail postcards, and advertise in the local paper so that everyone knows about your movie night. Create a Facebook event and encourage your congregation to share, share, share!
A movie license from Outreach Films allows you to promote your church movie night to your community using film artwork, the title and the actors’ names.
Make It an Unforgettable ExperienceMake It an Unforgettable ExperienceMake It an Unforgettable Experience
Provide refreshments for your guests such as popcorn, hot cocoa, soft drinks, or candy. Use a projector to create a real theater-style experience indoors, or take your movie outside with blankets on the lawn. Consider renting out a local theater or other venue if your crowd will be extra large. Make time for mingling before and after the show, with designated greeters to help facilitate the activities. Remember, the more creative you are, the more likely people will be to attend. At the end of your church movie night, consider giving first time visitors copies of the DVD. Make DVDs of the movie available for attendees to buy so they can share the story with others.
Manage All the Logistics Ahead of Your Event
Preparation is key to ensuring a successful movie night. Test your movie event DVD on the equipment before the event to avoid any last minute issues. Recruit people to greet attendees and to facilitate discussions at the end of your church movie night. If you’re expecting a lot of people, make sure you have ample parking, clear directional signage, and adequate refreshments. Use your Facebook event’s RSVP feature. Also, don’t forget to share the Facebook RSVP option on all your promotional materials, like door hangers and direct mail postcards. This can help you get a reasonable estimate of attendance. After the film, don’t forget to thank your attendees as they leave!
If you’ve been looking for new ways to connect with your community and reach out to the unchurched, a movie night is fun and engaging. With a little planning and a lot of enthusiasm, you can create a memorable movie night that might just turn one-time visitors into valued members of your congregation.
There’s possibly nothing more American than a trip to the movies. Okay, maybe baseball and apple pie, but not much else. Since the 1920s, Americans have been flocking to movie theaters. And although early movies were created mostly to entertain, today’s movies also uplift, inspire, share the Gospel — and even serve as a form of outreach for your church. If you’ve never tried hosting a community-wide movie night at your church, consider these five reasons why you might want to plan one soon (and why you might need a new movie night banner).
1) It’s a low-pressure way to get people into a church building
Watching a movie at church isn’t the same as attending a Sunday service, but it’s a great first step. Because, honestly, what do many unchurched people fear about going to church? The unknown. If they’ve never been, they don’t know what to expect, and that can feel scary. Will they be judged? Stared at? Asked spiritual questions they don’t know how to answer? Where are the bathrooms? By showing up for something as casual as an evening movie, they can get a sense of what your church is like without all the stress. And when they realize church is actually a friendly, welcoming place with normal people just like them, well, attending a Sunday service might not be as intimidating.
2) It works year-round
Who doesn’t love watching movies outdoors when the weather’s nice? If you have the outdoor space and can get your hands on a projector, projector screen, and some speakers, then you have a beautiful movie night under the stars in the making. People will be happy to bring blankets and lawn chairs, or you can provide them if you have them. And when cooler temps roll around, head inside to an activity room or fellowship hall, or just the sanctuary, where you probably already have everything ready for a movie screening.
3) It’s budget-friendly for moviegoers and churches
Let’s be honest: Going to the movies isn’t the cheap date it used to be, and the high price of tickets and snacks keeps many people away. Back in the ‘40s, a ticket cost just 36 cents, or $2.88 adjusted for inflation. It was a bargain. Now, though, at an average ticket cost of $10 plus another $20-40 for snacks and soft drinks, taking the family to the movies is out of reach for many people. But a movie night at a church can recreate a similar dynamic at a fraction of the cost. You can make the event free and advertise that people should bring a picnic dinner or snacks to enjoy while they watch, or you can head to your local warehouse store and stock up on snacks and drinks, pop some popcorn, and sell it at all cost (which, at warehouse prices, will be dirt cheap for moviegoers). Setting up a fun little concession stand would make the experience feel even more special! And licenses to screen movies are very affordable – and usually provide you an entire year’s worth of viewing so you can show the film to multiple groups. If you already have all the tech equipment on hand, then that’s really all it’ll cost you.
4) It creates a social viewing dynamic
If you’ve ever been to a midnight showing of a new release or attended a viewing party for an annual awards show, then you understand the power of watching something in community. The anticipation and whispers as the lights dim, the collective gasps, laughs and sniffles. That shared human experience transforms a movie and heightens emotions, doesn’t it? Studies have even found that people watching a movie together in a theater sync up their brain activity and exhibit similar emotions simultaneously. That experience is certainly more fun than watching at home alone, on your couch, with day-old, reheated leftovers.
5) It lets you show gospel-themed movies that might not be readily available anywhere else.
There are lots of great, gospel-themed movies (or even “secular” films that still point to God) out there that many people haven’t seen if the film was limited-release or if viewers just don’t have their finger on the pulse of Christian media. Many of those movies aren’t available on the most popular streaming networks, either. But by screening these films at your church, you’re giving your community the rare chance to experience them, and it’s a fantastic, low-pressure way to introduce the gospel. If you think your neighbors might be less likely to show up for one of those films, you could always mix in some family-friendly classics to your lineup (host a movie night series and alternate one Christian film with one classic crowd-pleaser), or offer a double feature one night.
Sometimes, movie producers will release a film for a church-event BEFORE the DVD or streaming services have access. These rare windows for exclusive showings are a perfect time to plan and promote a movie event because the people in your community can’t get the movie at home – it creates a sense of excitement and may draw more visitors to your church. For example, you can show the movie UNPLANNED in your church late this month (July 2019) even thought it won’t be in retail stores until August 13 – this movie is a great opportunity to host a movie night that could have a huge impact.
Any exhibition of a movie outside the privacy of a home setting is considered a public performance. The rental, purchase lending, streaming or downloading of a movie does not grant the right to exhibit it publicly outside the home, unless the
screening is properly licensed.
It’s the law and it’s the right thing to do. The Federal Copyright Act governs how copyrighted materials such as movies may be utilized publicly. The law applies to everyone including non-profit institutions. Funds from licensing go to paying
royalties to the authors, computer programmers, playwrights, musicians, inventors, movie producers, actors and other people involved in making the film. These people depend on royalties to make a living. Showing a film without a license is
essentially stealing from the people who made the film.
If I purchase a license to show a movie, can I show that movie any time I want?
It depends on what movie you are showing and the type of license. Blockbuster Movie licenses are for a specific, designated time frame and only accommodate one event. Faith-based licenses allow you to show the film anytime you want and as many
times as you want during the licensing period, usually for one-year.
Since I'm buying a License, can we charge admission?
No. You cannot charge for admission. The license only gives you permission to do a public showing of the Movie and marketing your event. However, there are a number of ways to recoup costs. (See ideas under Question 15 "The Cost is Prohibitive to Us…")
Can I use a retail version of the DVD if I purchase a License?
Yes. The License provides your church with permission to use a retail (home use only) DVD for your Movie Event. This is especially helpful if you need to use features not included on the Movie Event DVD such as additional language options, closed-captioning,
or special features.
A small group or ministry in our church is hosting the movie, do we still need a license?
Yes! If the small group is meeting outside a home, a license must be obtained regardless of the number of people attending the event. Movie license pricing is based on average weekly church attendance, not the event attendance. Faith based film
licenses are valid for unlimited showings for a full year from the date of purchase and allows you to show the film to multiple groups in your church. Blockbuster Movie Licenses are valid for one showing only.
How do the licenses between Faith-based and Blockbuster movies differ?
Blockbuster Movie licenses are for a specific, designated time frame and only accommodate one event. Faith-based licenses allow you to show the film anytime you want and as many times as you want during the licensing period, usually for one-year
from the date of purchase.
What are the differences between the packages on the faith-based films?
Outreach Films provides three different types of movie license packages for Faith-based films:
Movie Event Package - Along with an annual public performance site license, this package includes a physical DVD of the movie along with other printed and digital resources you can use to promote your event and make it more
successful. In some cases, the Movie Event Package also includes a complete Church Kit with sermons and sometimes small group curriculum along with other resources you can use to launch a series based on the themes of the movie. The detail
page of the movie you select should outline what is included with each type of package.
Movie License - Along with an annual public performance site license, the Movie License provides you with a physical DVD of the movie and digital resources like web and social media graphics, a digital planning guide and discussion
Digital Movie License - This is the perfect option when you already have a DVD of the movie you want to show. The Digital License does NOT include a DVD but provides you with annual public performance site license and digital
resources like web and social media graphics, a digital planning guide and discussion questions.
I want to show a movie outside the United States, can you provide me a license?
It depends on what movie you are showing and the type of license. For Blockbuster films, Outreach Films can only provide licensing in the United States. For Faith-based Films, each movie has different licensing options, please call 800-991-6011
to find out if international licenses are available for the title you want to show.
I am a chaplain at a local prison, military base, school, business or hospital. Do I need a license?
Yes, you still need a license but the cost will depend on what movie you are showing and the type of license you need. Some Faith-based movies offer a special Chaplain's License, please call 800-991-6011 to order.
The cost is prohibitive to us. Is there a way to get it for less, or how can we recoup the cost?
Some church networks and denominations have worked out discounts for their churches; check with those offices to find out if anything is available. Price is based on your average weekly church attendance to help make the license more affordable.
There are a number of ways to recoup any costs:
If you need to ticket the event because of seating issues, list a "suggested donation" on the ticket (remember, you cannot require an admission price).
Offer free admission, but sell concession tickets for popcorn and a drink, or a hot dog dinner.
Collect a freewill offering or leave baskets at the doors to collect gifts. People are accustomed to paying to see a film, so giving a donation to cover costs would not be seen as unusual.
Many churches simply ask the congregation to consider giving a special gift for the Movie Event above and beyond their regular giving. The cost of the License represents less than $1.00 per person in the typical church.
Ask a local business to sponsor the event, give them placement on your promotional materials and do a short sponsorship "commercial" to thank them prior to showing the film.
Purchase bulk DVDs and resell them at your event and use the proceeds to fund your event or future events.
What if we didn't purchase a license and unknowingly showed the movie?
Any organization's public exhibition of a film without proper licensing is subject to steep and significant penalties through The Copyright Act (as much as $150,000 per exhibition). Even inadvertent infringers are subject to the Copyright Act.
If your organization has unknowingly showed a movie while not in copyright compliance, contact us directly to remedy the matter 800-991-6011.
When you show a movie at your church it could allow your church members a relaxing, enjoyable evening with friends… or it could change someone's life for Christ!
Read some stories about churches that have intentionally used movies as an outreach tool and have seen amazing, God-size responses. These churches all have two things in common: they invited people from their community and then followed their event
with a discussion, sermon series or small group that explored the themes and biblical concepts from the movie:
When the youth pastor in a Northport, AL church with less than 20 teens, challenged his teens and other youth pastors in his community to reach out and invite students to come see the To Save A Life movie,
they had a packed house with only 2 empty seats. They decided to follow up with the youth curriculum and now more than 50 kids are regularly attending, 7 teens came to Christ, 10 rededicated their lives, 3 asked to be baptized, and 4 families
have joined the church!
The members of a church in Hemet, CA committed to distribute 1,000 tickets for their four showings of the To Save A Life movie.
Plus, they advertised on a local radio station and worked with a few local businesses to distribute tickets to their customers. As a result, over 1,600 came to the showings with 58 coming to their church the following
Sunday and 24 people deciding to join a Sunday School class.
A small rural church of 42 members in Guthrie, OK prayed for a creative way to bring a movie to their town. Deciding to sponsor a summer movie night at their local drive-in, they handed out 1,600 flyers in neighborhood business parking lots and saw 254 cars and over 700 people attend the showing.
A church in Willoughby Hills, OH with a regular film ministry averaging 60 in attendance decided to promote their Movie Event with posters in their community and by asking their congregation to share 400 bulletin inserts with friends and family.
650 people attended the event with another 250 attending an encore showing two weeks later.
Looking for a new way to connect with the middle school girls at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, a girls youth group leader advertised showing a movie and then held a talk session afterwards. Girls brought friends they had never invited to church before and all the girls begin to spontaneously talk about the film and opened up about issues they had never shared with anyone.
The 12 teens at a church in San Marcos, CA decided to invite people from their school to come to their TO SAVE A LIFE movie event. More than 50 new
teens showed up and the majority of them came back to participate in the To Save A Life study.
As a pastor, you’re always looking for ways to attract visitors, invite them to return, help them become believers and continue to grow and be active church members. It’s a big job but here is one way to kick start all these efforts: A church campaign
launched by a movie night is one of the best ways to kick-start your connection to your community. Here is why:
Movies attract visitors:
People love going to the movies, so hosting a movie night at your church is a no-brainer. Another plus is that a movie event is a lot easier than a church service for members to invite their friends and neighbors to. It’s not only
non-threatening, it’s fun!
Pair your event with fun refreshments, child care, and a few interesting discussion questions afterwards, and suddenly your visitors are having a good time, making friends and feeling more comfortable in your church!
Pastor Stewart McWilliams, of Fellowship of the Rockies, saw success this way at his church’s two locations - he posted outdoor banners on the building and empowered his congregation with personal invitations promoting the church’s
three showings of I Can Only Imagine.
“We have had over 100 people come to the movie.” McWilliams said. “One of our deacons was so touched by the movie he went and purchased a copy and took it to someone who couldn’t get out.”
Sermon series keeps visitors coming back:
By pairing your movie event with a new sermon series that covers the topics from the movie, your visitors will have a reason to come back on Sunday Morning. For example, show I Can Only Imagine on a Friday night and then let your audience know that you
will be speaking on Sunday about forgiveness, reconciliation and God as our loving heavenly father...your visitors will probably be interested in hearing more. Plus they can sit with their new friends and have a free donut!
Small Group engagement is higher
Finally, along with your sermon series, your church can launch small groups to really dive deep into the same topics and help each person apply what they’ve learned to their life. Keep the commitment short and easy - only for 4-6 weeks - and provide childcare.
Now you have people who are regularly attending, connecting with new friends and learning more about God!
“This is the largest group participation we have ever had for a fall launch. This is the first time all the groups at church, including men’s and women’s groups, are doing the [same] study [from I Can Only Imagine].” McWilliam’s reported.
Try this combination of movies and teaching at your church to see if you have similar success. There is a great selection of film and study options available.