Interview: Charles Humbard of UPTV on “The Passion of the Christ”

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Charles “Charley” Humbard, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of UP, is a 32-year entertainment industry veteran.  Since the network’s inception, he has led the channel’s overall business strategy and growth and maintained the network’s mission to uplift, inspire and entertain viewers through quality entertainment programming.  Launched as the Gospel Music Channel and later known as GMC TV, the network changed its name to UP on June 1, 2013 to better reflect its programming mission of Uplifting Entertainment.
Son of the country’s first television minister, Charley Humbard began his career writing music, performing and producing gospel music for Rex Humbard Worldwide Ministries. Today, Mr. Humbard continues to be committed to bringing uplifting family values entertainment to viewers across America through UP.  He took time to talk with me about UP’s Holy Week programming, especially the first network television showing of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

Will this very intense and involving film work well on television?

It is an intense and involving experience. I really believe “The Passion” is most of all a love story, really a love story of a son for his heavenly father and a mother for the support of her son. It is a depiction of what was probably the worst thing that could happen to human being — crucifixion. I mean the Romans did that for a reason, right? It wasn’t the easiest way to kill you but it was definitely a way to make others pay attention. And try to dissuade them from doing things the Romans didn’t want them to do.

So the movie has a lot of very difficult, very tough and challenging scenes. But for all audience and for people out there who really understand the Easter story and try to live their lives and follow the teachings that comes from Christ and from the Easter story, who really feel like it, it is such a powerful movie that can move hearts.

It’s also an opportunity for people to invite other people to church.  I really believe this is a moment when you can invite maybe a non-believer to watch and really, I think move their heart in a good place. I think the movie is very powerful that way and as you look back ten years ago when it came out and after some $616 million in the box office, the biggest independent film ever made. People weren’t going to watch just because somebody in it got crucified. People went to that movie because of the real story it tells and the impact it has on peoples’ lives to truly understand the depth and the importance of that story.

So for us I think it’s a perfect way. We like to say that “Easter lives here.”  It’s our way of saying to our viewers and others that we get Easter just like we do Christmas in a way you really want to celebrate it. We understand what Easter is really about. It’s kind of a little secret handshake in a way that say it lives here right? So I think this is the perfect movie to be one of the pillars of the entire two weeks. We are on this on Palm Sunday right in the middle of  the two week Easter celebration of one of the biggest Bible movies ever.  Every night a good Bible story is on, and  it would be remiss almost not to have “The Passion of the Christ,” right? 

Are you going to be showing it with limited interruptions?  Are you editing it at all?

We’re showing it with limited commercial interruptions.  The guidelines on how this movie is allowed to be aired is really set by Mel and the distributor. And they have very specific guidelines for us on how many commercial breaks they will allow us to air. We didn’t want to do it with a lot anyhow so it kinda fit beautifully, I think there’s only four breaks in the entire two hours so that fit very well with how we would have desired to have it.  And they also will not allow you to edit past the re-edit they did, so the second edit Mel Gibson had done back when he first released the movie to make it more appropriate for a television audience is the version we are airing.

What are some of the other movies that you are going to be showing during this week?

All week, two weeks really, beginning the week before “Passion” and going all the way through Easter, we’ve got the greatest stories of the Bible: “Peter and Paul,” “Solomon,” “The Story of David,” “Barabbas,” “Jeremiah,” “The story of Ruth,” “The 10 Commandments,” “The Book of Ruth,” “Esther,” – it’s just like mega Bible movie mania! “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Mary, Mother of Jesus,” “The Story of Jacob and Joseph,” “Judas,” “King of Kings,” and “Jesus,” which was a great miniseries and our highest rated ever on our network that was aired last year for Easter.  Also “The Robe,” “Demetrius,” “The Gladiators,” “The Apostle Peter,” and “The Last Supper.”

Is there a Bible story that has not been made into a movie that you would like to see?

I have never really thought about it at that angle. We in the past have traditionally made these types of movies, these are movies we acquire. The movies we make a more modern and contemporary in theme. Though next year, in 2015 we’ve partnered with the BBC and we are creating “Noah.”  So that will of course be a real Bible movie. We were kind of timely with Noah coming out this year as a theatrical release.

How do you see your audience? Do you see your audience as believers? 

Here’s what we know from research. Our research tells us that faith is very important to our viewers. Our viewers, people who watch us today, faith is an important part of their lives and how that faith plays out in their values and therefore their entertainment choices. That we know. We know our audience, from the recent Nielsen research, is the audience that believes those things and is seeking programming like ours is in excess of 42 million. So that’s a substantial… It’s a huge audience. As a matter of fact, in the three groups that Nielsen identified, they are the largest group, bigger than the reality seekers, bigger than what I would like to call my “Breaking Bad” audience out there that is kind of anti-this kind of programming. I think that shows in the success of our growth and distribution and also in the continued ratings growth, quarter after quarter year after year. So we know our audience is seeking programming that aligns with their faith and values right. But is also seeking programming that affirms and inspires those values. So we do know that our audience is a more faithful audience but the thing that’s nice about the programs that we would like to use and maybe the movie “The Blind Side” as a good example, what’s nice about the movies we make; even if you are not someone who is practicing faith in your life every day, who doesn’t like a great inspirational story?

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