Encompassing both film and television, Franklin and his namesake production company, Franklin Entertainment, will develop projects that appeal to both faith-based and urban markets.
“This is a plan tailor-made for DeVon’s specific skill set and interests,” Doug Belgrad, president of Columbia Pictures told Variety. “It’s clear that his ambition was to get closer to the product and maintain his speaking and writing career.”
An ordained preacher, the exec has spent nine years at Sony, overseeing projects such as “Heaven Is for Real,” “The Karate Kid” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” In that role, he developed and produced commercial material focused on those two markets.
He’s already slated to join Joe Roth as a producer on “Heaven Changes Everything,” the sequel to “Heaven Is for Real,” which was made for $12 million and has grossed roughly $95 million to date. Sony is working on obtaining the rights to the next chapter of the “Heaven” series of stories from writers Todd and Sonja Burpo.
Franklin will produce “Unleash the Mules” with Roth and his son Zack. He will also join Steve Tisch, Jason Blumenthal and Todd Black as a producer on “Masters of the Universe,” and Dana Brunetti on “Gran Turismo,” the film adaptation of the PlayStation videogame franchise.
Belgrad said Franklin will remain on the lot as a producer and the two of them have been in talks for the past two to three years on this transition, which Belgrad called “a natural evolution.”
Franklin, in addition to being a studio exec, is also a published author and motivational speaker who penned “Produced by Faith,” a self-help bestseller that tracked his success strategy through his tenure in the entertainment industry.
Religious themed films like “Noah,” (which grossed $360 million worldwide) “God’s Not Dead,” (made for $2 million and grossed $60 million domestic) and “Son of God,” the latter of which television super-producer Mark Burnett adapted from his History miniseries “The Bible,” have performed well at the box office, signaling to Hollywood that audiences are interested in faith-based content.
“This faith-based content matters to us, it’s a super profitable niche and DeVon with Sony has demonstrated leadership to that space,” Belgrad said.