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Critic Confessions: Did ‘Essential Church’ Miss Ripe Media Exposure?

Film chronicles government's faith lockdown deserves a larger audience

Being a film critic means getting deluged with press releases about every new film under the sun.

Blockbusters. Indie releases. Films that look like they were made between Starbucks shifts.

I see them all … and I read them all. It’s the very least I can do, and sometimes you find a gem hidden in your electronic in-box. Beats digging ditches, as my late father might say. 

So when a film passes me by, especially on a topic that means a great deal to me, it’s rare.

That happened over the weekend. I did my weekly deep dive into the top movies in the country and spotted a curious item at no. 16.

“The Essential Church.” What’s that?

The Essential Church Official Trailer

The documentary recalls the government’s efforts to restrict Americans from visiting houses of worship during the COVID-19 lockdowns. You could buy pot, booze and just about anything at your local shop, but churches couldn’t always admit parishioners during the pandemic.

We now know the pandemic’s lethal nature didn’t match the media’s scaremongering, and many of the tactics installed to stop the spread failed.


They did spawn plenty of pain, though. Bankruptcies. School set backs. And many more unintended consequences we’re still feeling today. And a few people of faith got arrested along the way.

So a movie like “The Essential Church” feels like it could be another summer sleeper, a necessary reminder of what we tolerated during the pandemic.

“This wasn’t about health and safety. This was all about control and opposition to religious freedom,” one of the voices in the trailer says.

Except the film earned a modest $250K from 301 theaters. That’s not terrible, but it could have been better.


The film’s studio, Grace Productions, could have reached out to this site for a review or just promotional purposes. HiT aligns directly with the film’s perceived demographic.

The film currently has no professional critic reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score? 100 percent “Fresh.”

More importantly, a quick Google News search on the film finds no hits from Breitbart News, The Daily  Wire, The Federalist, The Blaze or other right-leaning outlets.

Did they reach out to those platforms and get rejected? It seems odd that Conservative Media, Inc. would ignore such a film.

This might be the largest platform to promote “The Essential Church.”

Liberal-leaning documentaries have access to many platforms to promote their projects. If passes on a pro-choice documentary, it might get picked up by Variety … or … or Collider … or The Hollywood Reporter … or even a major news wire.

Right-leaning art has a much smaller number of platforms from which to promote its work. They still exist, though.

The new wave of Heartland-friendly artists must do more than create work that rivals the quality of mainstream productions. They must tap platforms open to spreading the news about them above and beyond the progressive mainstream.

Right-leaning media, in turn, should alert readers to these challenging new stories.


  1. Couldn’t see it the last weekend so I was planning to see it today with my wife. I had just heard about it on twitter and was very disappointed to find it was removed from the Regal Post Falls ID. There isn’t another available screen within 50 miles. Sad. Seems to me a real promotional failure. Contrast Sound of Freedom. Thx for the scoop, C.

  2. Sorry. I had some other things to watch. I DID see this announced AND was aware of The Essential Church; but Tuesday and Wednesday nights last I had LIVE concerts to go to–one in an air-conditioned venue (something I don’t have). I CAN’T WATCH EVERYTHING! Now WHY did this slip your notice if I who don’t follow movies and is making fun of “BARBIE-HEIMER” knew about it and consciously decided to pass it up?
    “The fault, dear Brutus…” OK. OK! If the weather gets uncomfortable maybe I’ll go see “Sound of Freedom” in a theater rather than pouring a cold one or two and finally finishing “Lloyds of London” on-line.

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