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The Chosen and Angel Studios War Over Hit Show: ‘We Love Them But—’

The Chosen and Angel Studios War Over Hit Show: ‘We Love Them But—’

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The Chosen creator Dallas Jenkins teared up during a livestream telecast on Wednesday. He had just won a hard-fought, months-long arbitration with his Biblical drama’s original partner, Angel Studios. The arbitrator had ruled in Jenkins’ company’s favor, freeing him to potentially secure a major exclusive streaming partner to help fund the show’s upcoming seasons.

“What I’m about to say [is] very sad,” Jenkins said (video below). “The arbitrator’s decision comprehensively affirmed our position… and The Chosen‘s relationship with Angel Studios is effectively over. We take no pleasure in this. We want to reiterate our deep appreciation for their immeasurable role in how they launched the show. But we came to the conclusion that we simply had no choice [but to split with Angel] for the future of our company and the show.”

Jenkins then announced the news Chosen fans had long waited for — a season four streaming date.

“This delay has been awful,” Jenkins added, “and the last year and a half has been among the hardest months of our show’s existence. But now we have a clear and exciting path moving forward.”

But very shortly after Jenkins’ gracious victory speech, Angel Studios CEO Neal Harmon posted an announcement of its own: His studio would be appealing the decision.

“The team at Angel Studios is honored to have been instrumental in the founding and unbelievable growth of The Chosen,” Harmon said in a statement. “Our long hours of hard work over the last eight years by teams of programmers, marketers, translators, licensing experts and innovators have helped it become the worldwide success that it is today. Sadly, The Chosen, Inc. chose to terminate its agreement with us. We hope that one day the agreement will be restored — and we plan to pursue the appeal provision that Angel and The Chosen agreed to as the process for resolving disagreements privately.”

The Chosen has become a stealth streaming hit by chronicling the story of Jesus and his followers across a planned seven seasons. As detailed in this week’s Hollywood Reporter profile of Jenkins — where he candidly talks about the show’s past, present and futureThe Chosen was based on a 2017 short film “The Shepherd,” which Jenkins’ envisioned expanding into a serialized drama. Coming off a Hollywood flop (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone), Jenkins partnered with Angel Studios, which had the idea of crowd funding the series. They raised a stunning $11 million to produce the first season, a crowd-funding record for a TV or film project, and Angel Studios released the show on its app.

Jenkins gives Angel Studios — founded by the Harmon brothers — plenty of credit for the show’s early success.

“The Harmons were convinced this would be a massive hit, and they predicted it would change the world,” Jenkins said. “Long story short, they were right. Their idea worked. The Chosen would not have launched without some of the ideas, initiatives and extraordinary efforts of the Harmon brothers and so many of the incredible employees at the company. We love them, and will always feel a great sense of appreciation for what they did to help bring this show to the world.”

But as the show has grown, its budgets have grown (season four cost $40 million), and so has Jenkins’ production company. Angel launched its innovative Pay It Forward model of crowd funding to help support the show, but Jenkins says that less than half of those donations made it to the show’s production.

“If we were a one-off movie, and that was just our share of income, that actually might be great,” Jenkins said. “But we were solely responsible for the financing of future seasons as every dollar for production came from our side … We realized we were responsible for immeasurably more than any of us expected in order for this show to survive.”

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In 2022, The Chosen and Angel Studios’ relationship fractured amid several changes. The show launched a new crowd-funding mechanism, a non-profit called Come & See, to directly raise funds for the production, and The Chosen made several licensing deals to get the show on streamers like Netflix, Prime, Hulu and Peacock. But The Chosen LLC also accused Angel Studios of breaching their contract, and attempted to sever their relationship entirely. That led to the current arbitration between a group of filmmakers and family-owned studio that have had long had a close personal relationship (Angel had no comment about Jenkins’ remarks).

What’s unique about the legal dispute is not only the polite public tenor of the fight, but also the importance of the fandom’s feelings. While all TV shows rely on viewership, The Chosen fans are quite literally keeping the production’s lights on with their donations — season five is filming now amid fund-raising efforts. So Jenkins repeatedly emphasized that they were trying to resolve what he describes as legitimate differences without rancor — or behaving in such a way that would be, well, un-Christian.

“We wanted to solve this in a biblical way — which was to not make into a public spectacle,” Jenkins said. “Private arbitration was the only way to do this in a way that didn’t harm the show [or] the reputation of Jesus … Both Angel and The Chosen want this show to reach over a billion people and both of us want the show to be sustainable. We just obviously have significant differences of opinion and how to do that and what our future should be. Good people can disagree.”

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