Tourists who have visited Branson, Mo., or Lancaster, Pa., know all about Sight & Sound Theatres and the massive Broadway-like shows that bring the Bible to life.
But for the rest of the country, trips to those two scenic locations may not be practical.
Sight & Sound will give lovers of musicals the next-best thing on Tuesday (May 2) when Jonah – recorded in front of a live audience – will show in more than 700 movie theaters nationwide in a one-night-only event. It is Sight & Sound’s theatrical debut and will give those outside of the Missouri and Pennsylvania regions a front-row view of the spectacular costumes, colossal sets, and original music that has made the shows popular.
More than 1 million people each year view Sight & Sound productions in person.
“What we wanted to do for those who are going to be watching it on the big screen is to be able to get a vantage point and a perspective of the show that you wouldn’t have if you were sitting here live,” Dean Sell, brand manager for Sight & Sound, told the Christian News Journal. “When you are sitting here [at the Sight and Sound theater], you have a fixed seat and that’s your viewing position for the whole show. When you’re watching it on the screen, you get to actually move around the auditorium and you get to be up on stage and see the action up close and personal. Both are great, but they’re uniquely different experiences.
The May 2 show also will include a behind-the-scenes look at the history of Sight & Sound Theatres, which launched in 1976.
The Christian News Journal recently spoke with Sell about the company’s box office debut. Following is a transcript.
CNJ: Why did Sight & Sound want to put this on the big screen?
Dean Sell: We love what we do. We love bringing the Bible to life. We love providing an opportunity for people to experience these stories in a really unique way, and we’ve actually been filming these shows for the past 10 years. When we were presented with the opportunity to take one of our shows into movie theaters, we thought, ‘God knows what He’s doing. He knew what He would do when He prompted us to start this 10 years ago.’ Really it’s about providing more opportunity for people to have a unique Sight & Sound experience right in their own background who wouldn’t be able to make it to Lancaster or Branson.
CNJ: Why did Sight & Sound pick Jonah for the first movie experience?
Sell: Jonah is just a fun, family-friendly show, and it is a really unique show. It has comedy, it has adventure. We talked a lot about which story would be best. This one is on our stage in Lancaster this year, and we really wanted to provide people the experience this year who wouldn’t be able to make it to Lancaster.
CNJ: For those who have not seen a Sight & Sound production, how does it differ from anything they may have seen in the past?
Sell: We don’t know of many other Bible stories live on stage, so the fact that it is a Bible story and it’s live is something that is unique. Our venue was built to create this experience where the story can come to life all around the audience. So the stage is a panoramic, 300-foot stage that wraps around the audience on three sides. The shows are designed where the story doesn’t just stay on the stage but it actually comes out into the audience through the aisles — so beside you, behind you, above you. It really feels like you’re sitting right in the center of the pages of Scripture as the story leaps to life all around you.
CNJ: What are the challenges in making a two-hour production and staying true to Scripture?
Sell: It is a challenge, but we are passionate in staying true to Scripture. We take creative license but it’s simply for filling in those blanks. It’s really not to alter the message or to alter the story in any way, shape or form.
— Michael Foust
Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Visit his website, MichaelFoust.com