Sight & Sound Theatres had been producing Broadway-style Bible stage musicals for over four decades when a worldwide pandemic in 2020 shuttered its doors, preventing fans and tourists alike from enjoying the one-of-a-kind attraction.
That adversity, though, sparked innovation, with more than 3 million people worldwide on Easter weekend 2020 watching a streaming version of Sight & Sound's stage musical JESUS!
Sight & Sound's doors may have been closed, but its ministry was still thriving.
"The Lord really revealed to us: We're not just a theatre company. We're a company of storytellers," Sight & Sound's Joshua Enck told Christian Headlines.
Sight & Sound subsequently launched a new brand, Sight & Sound Films, to produce inspiring films based on historical events.
Its first dramatic film, I Heard The Bells, opens in theaters Dec. 1, telling the true story of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), a Christian who wrote the poem that became the famous carol I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.
Sight & Sound isn't abandoning its theatrical ministry. (It has two locations: Lancaster, Pa., and Branson, Mo., that are now fully open once again.) It's merely expanding it.
Enck directed I Heard The Bells. The films, like the live stage musicals, will be family-friendly, he said.
"We want to move people's hearts towards truth through the power of story. Jesus Himself had over 50 parables. A third of His teachings were from a storytelling perspective," Enck said. "... The calling for Sight & Sound Films is to tell the stories of figures and events from history that changed the world because Christ first changed them."
Longfellow was the "most famous person" in America when alive, Enck said.
"He was a celebrity. He was [like] Charles Dickens," Enck said. "In fact, he and Charles Dickens were friends. Henry Longfellow was a poet and a key influencer on culture back in the 1800s. … [I Heard The Bells] was a poem he wrote right in the middle of the Civil War, 1863 Christmas Day, right on the heels of a major tragedy in his life. And it's really a story about hope. … We've all been through some crisis and tragedy, and we need to hear a story of hope."
Longfellow penned the famous poem after he had stopped writing due to the tragedy, Enck said.
"It was through the sound of the [church] bells ringing out that he was inspired to be a voice himself to ring out," Enck said. "And that song is still ringing out every Christmas."
Photo courtesy: ©Fathom, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.