MANATEE -- With Easter a couple weeks away, Carmike Royal Palm 20 has scheduled a series of seven Christian events at the theater.
Beginning this weekend with the release of the film "The Young Messiah," the series include worship and concert, musical theater and classic film at, 2507 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton. The events run through April 19.
Event costs vary.
"There is a need for faith-based events in the area and there are a lot of people that don't necessarily like what is coming out in Hollywood and by showing alternative films, we are serving that community as well," said Wayne Douchkoff, operations manager at Carmike Royal Palm 20.
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After "The Young Messiah," the schedule includes, "Miracles From Heaven,"
which opens Wednesday, and "God's Not Dead 2," which opens April 1.
"I think they are of interest of most people but to the Christian community, it does give a chance to allow them to come out to faith-based events," Douchkoff said.
Last year, the Bradenton theater began alternative programming as a way to reach out more to the community, Douchkoff said.
"There is a local interest in trying to do something for the community because we all live here," he said.
When the theater showed a faith-based film last fall, T.J. Wilson, children's pastor at Crosspointe Christian Church, organized students in Manatee and Sarasota counties to come see the film "Woodlawn," which was based on a true story that took place in 1973 in Birmingham, chronicling how a football team, high school and community dealt with the racial divide at the time.
More than 900 students attended, including the football teams at Braden River, Manatee and Palmetto high schools, said Wilson, who plans on attending some of the faith-based theater events.
"It was really neat to see that impact," he said. "I think these films are more reflective of our society than other films for entertainment purposes."
After losing his 22-year-old brother-in-law to a heroin overdose last year, Wilson wanted to get the students out to the event.
"I believe if he had more impact in his life at a younger age that wouldn't have happened," Wilson said. "I believe there is a lot of hope for our next generation, but we have to be intentional. These films draw on the impact that their lives matter. That there is a greater purpose of who we are and what we do."
If people haven't watched one these faith-based films, Wilson said they are missing out.
"You are going to see a movie that is going to be a lot more real and that is going to challenge you in a more deeper way than anything that is out there. It challenges people to think about who they are and what kind of legacy they want to leave in life."
For information about the upcoming events, call 941-752-3796.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.