BYUtv Managing Director Michael Dunn announced the network will take part in a rerelease of the original “The Other Side of Heaven” movie and the distribution of its sequel at a press conference Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
The network will rerelease the 2001 “The Other Side of Heaven” film on TV this summer, airing the movie June 23-24 at 7 p.m. on BYUtv. The original movie also will undergo a theatrical rerelease May 17 at three Utah theaters: the Megaplex Theatres in Vineyard, Thanksgiving Point and Centerville.
BYUtv also will have exclusive TV and digital distribution rights for “The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith.” Dunn said he anticipates BYUtv will begin airing and streaming the sequel in late 2019, following the film’s nationwide theatrical release June 28 in 200 to 300 theaters.
Mitch Davis, who wrote and directed the films, said at the conference the revival of the first “The Other Side of Heaven” will expose the movie to a new streaming generation that has never seen it.
“Because of the rights we’ve acquired on this remarkable film, we plan to show it throughout the year,” Dunn said at the conference. “We’ve found it just remarkable that so much time has transpired and literally an entire generation does not know this incredible story, so we’re so happy to be bringing that to our airwaves.”
Dunn said the new partnership will expose the movies to BYUtv’s potential nationwide audience of 52 million viewers and fits into the network’s current major rebranding process.
“We’re about creating purposeful, meaningful entertainment and viewing experiences that families can enjoy together,” Dunn said. “(‘The Other Side of Heaven’) is totally about family entertainment and it is something that the entire family can get their arms around.
“Yes, this is a remarkable story of faith that is centered in and around an experience that took place very much in the heart of believers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and yet, it is a transformative film because its message is something about faith, about love, about doing the right thing that people of all cultures embrace and enjoy and be empowered by and be inspired by,” Dunn also said.
Davis said he was hesitant to make a sequel because the first movie was big.
“Disney distributed it. Anne Hathaway was in it,” Davis said at the conference. “I didn’t want to make 10-cent movie and besmirch or diminish Elder Groberg’s story by making it small, and frankly, I didn’t want to do it just to make a buck.”
The objective with the sequel was to, like the first movie, succeed “at a sufficient level to be propelled into all the world,” according to Davis.
“It’s not enough to make a movie for 10 cents that 11 people in Provo go see. It’s just not enough. It might make us feel good, investors might be happy, we got our money back, but nobody cares and nobody knows outside those 11 people in Provo,” Davis said. “I want us to be honest with ourselves about what we’re doing, what our goals are.”
Davis said miracles happened, including BYUtv’s partnership, that allowed him to make the sequel, which cost several million dollars to create.
“If we really want to participate in this worldwide conversation about whether or not a Mormon could be human, whether or not a Mormon could laugh or cry or be empathized with, we can’t think small,” Davis said. “We just can’t because when we do, we are only talking to ourselves.”
“The Other Side of Heaven” tells Elder John H. Groberg’s story of serving in Tonga as a young full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while “The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith” is based on his experiences returning to Tonga as a mission president with his family.
“His own experiences are amplified,” Davis said. “If you think about how much you hurt when you fall and stub your toe and then how much you hurt when your child does and how much more you hurt when your grandchild does — all of Elder Groberg’s experiences are amplified in my view from a dramatic standpoint.”
Groberg, an emeritus general authority of the church, emphasized at the conference he feels the movie is not about him or his family.
“We’re a part of it, the things that happened there, but it’s about faith, it’s about love, it’s about family, particularly in Polynesia and especially in Tonga because that happened to be where I was,” he said.
“I think there’s really nothing more important than to recognize that we have a responsibility to help the world, and that help has to come from saying, ‘No, family is important. Marriage is important. Love is important. Forgiveness is important. Faith in God is important,’ ” Groberg continued. “And I hope that because of these movies, that message will be able to get across to the whole world.”
Though the filmmakers could not bring Hathaway back to play Jean Groberg, a good group of the original “The Other Side of Heaven” cast returned for the sequel, including lead Christopher Gorham and Joe Folau, who plays Feki, Groberg’s first missionary companion.
“It was really easy. They were so enthusiastic to get back together,” Davis said. “When I went to Chris Gorham, he said, ‘Ah, you’re going to get the band back together?’ So yeah, it was great.”
Davis said the filmmakers plan to show the sequel to Disney, which distributed the first film.
Dunn said BYUtv is delighted in and appreciative of the opportunity to partner in the “effort to bring both these remarkable films back to television in the coming year and in years beyond.”
“We think it’s … a wonderful way to bring to people, not just in the U.S. but all over the world, a wonderful, compelling story of faith and the triumph of the human will, so we’re very excited about that,” Dunn said.