Byron Jones Story

My name is Bryon Jones, and I was born and raised in the church. I accepted the Lord when I was three years old.

I heard a message one Sunday, and that week I knelt and gave my heart to the Lord. My mom would look after people.  She was a former nurse, and she would go into people’s homes and clean their homes and take care of them if they were sickly.  We didn’t have a lot of money, and here I was at three years of age and she took me with her to her best client’s place.  She was busy working downstairs, and all of a sudden she said, “Where is Byron?” She went around the corner and there was her three year old boy sitting with her most important client.  She was sitting on the couch, and I was telling her that she needed Jesus as her savior or she was going to go to hell.  This poor lady was sitting there taking in everything.  My mom was going to run into the room, and she thought I am probably going to get fired anyway.  So why don’t I let him just go ahead.

For fifteen minutes I sat down and told her how Jesus went to the cross, that Jesus bore her sins, and that she didn’t have to live a sinful life anymore.  My mom was around the corner thinking “What is he doing?” But you know that lady gave her heart to the Lord.  My mom didn’t lose her job that day, praise God.

When I was in the first grade, my teacher gave the class an assignment in art. She said, “I want you to paint a picture that shows the most special thing in your life.  A few minutes later my mom got a call.

The teacher said, “Would you please come to the school right away?”  My mom said, “Uh, oh.”  She went to the school, and she thought maybe I was laying there bleeding to death or something.  The teacher said we need to talk to you about your son, and my mom said, “Oh, what has he done?”  “Well, Byron was in art class, and he drew something very disturbing. He took his piece of paper, and he dipped his fingers into the red paint, he drew a hill, and on that hill he put three crosses, and then he dripped red all down the hill.”  The teacher said, “Don’t you think it is strange that Byron is so obsessed with something so violent?”  I said, “But it is not.  It is Jesus that died for our sins.  You said to paint the most special thing in our life, and that’s what I painted.”  Well, my mom had a chance then to give the message of salvation to my teacher and explain to her exactly what that painting was all about.  My mom still has that painting in her cedar chest today.   

I grew up in the church, and seeing miracles is nothing new.   I am a pastor today, and I have people that say they can’t bring their children to church on Sunday evening or to midweek service because it gets over too late at 8:15 PM.  I remember when church services ran until one or two o’clock in the morning.  I still got up and went to school the next day.  I still graduated with my degree with honors.

I loved it when the services started really happening and bouncing, and the music was playing and people were going down under the power.  We wanted to see how many people would go down in one night.  I mean as kids we would count them, and we would say I think there is going to be about twenty-six tonight.  I remember one little old lady, her name was Sister Shutak.  She had to be about 89 years ago.  She probably weighed about 78 pounds soaking wet.  I will never forget this one service.  The minister approached Sister Shutak, and said, “In the name of Jesus,” and touched her head.  Well, she went through three rows of chairs and hit the floor.  Everybody went “ahh.”  She got up, and was shouting victory.  She didn’t get injured.  She didn’t get bruised, but God got hold of her that night and healed her.

You don’t have many of these experiences today, but I thank the Lord for the many experiences that we have.  I remember in school I was a special kind of student. I was academically gifted with one of those brains that could remember everything.  As long as it was a spoken, or seen on the chalkboard, or read in a book; I could remember it at exam time.

So I was a little bit bad in my studying habits.  I led some of my friends down the garden path because they should have been studying, and they didn’t.  Their grades weren’t very popular with their parents, but God always blessed me with the ability to take an exam and score in the 80s and 90s.  I am thankful for this academic gift.

All through high school I loved architecture.  I drew plans for five homes and homes were built.  I remember on the final exam in architecture class I scored 103 percent because I found mistakes on the teacher’s exam.  When it came time to go to the university, the job market was a little bit light in the architectural world at the time.  I had actually been freelancing in an architect’s office for the last year of high school, and I designed a school that was built in my hometown.  It is neat when you can go by a big building like that and say, “Oh, yeah.  I remember drawing all those windows and designing those light fixtures.” In time I decided I am not going to the university.  I am going to start working.  I went into something called business.  So I started a few businesses.  I started a construction company.  I also worked in the family business, a flower and gift shop, believe it or not. In that business we did well, and the construction business was successful, and I started another company in Canada called Gateway Computers.

Now you might know Gateway Computers in the U.S., but I own Gateway Computers in Canada, and I still own the name and trademark today.  So they have a hard time doing business in Canada without crossing over into my territory, but God blessed me.  We were doing so well.

God Put Me in the Movie Business

One day I was with my nieces and nephews, and I saw them all reading this book called Left Behind.  They were passing the book among themselves.  They actually had a couple of them, and so I said, “Well, what is this book?”  They said, “Oh, you should read it.”  I said, “Well, I will go get a copy.”  So I got a copy, read it, and I enjoyed it.  At this time the book had not sold many copies. I contacted the author who had the copyrights and said, “Listen, I would like to get the rights to this book.”  Well, that didn’t work out so well.  You see, God told me that I was going to be involved in the movie production of the book.

So I told the author, “Well Joe, you can go ahead to Hollywood and you can run around, but you are going to be right back here in two years, and we are going to make the movie.” He laughed at me as I dropped him off at the airport, and didn’t see him for two years.  Then two years later he gave us a call and came by. God gives you challenges in business.  We had to write a seven figure check just to get the rights to it to make that book into a movie, and up until that time I was probably the most successful Christian film salesperson selling 300,000 DVD copies of a single movie in the Christian market.  I mean that was a pittance compared to what Hollywood sells, but you got to remember that was back in 1997.  I remember sitting down and they said, “You know you are the number one salesperson in America for Christian films, but you are going to have to sell 600,000 DVD copies of this movie just to break even.”  Can you do it?  I said, “Well, it is not me.  It is God, but, yes, we can do it.”

We bought the copyrights to the book, and, boy, did we ever have a bees’ nest on our hands.  We had everybody fighting us, from Hollywood to most Christian boardrooms in America.  We just kept pressing on knowing that we were supposed to do it. We had to pray every step of the way. When God calls you to do something, whatever your business is, I believe in investing into the Kingdom of God, but you might be called to be a commercial appraiser so that God can bless you to support the Kingdom of God.  I am just blessed by being involved in a business that is about Christian media and Christian subjects.
Well, we made the movie.  All of a sudden we had these lawsuits.  We tried to get the movie into the theaters, but they refused to take it into the theaters.  They said, “Well, what are we going to do now?”  

I said, “Well, as I read the contract.”  It was about an inch thick, and I said, “There is one line in there that said we have to release it to a minimum of 100 theaters,” and our lawyers were there, and they said, “Yes.”  Basically they were saying, “What is the stupid kid talking about?  You know, if we read it, we are lawyers, you know.”

We picked up the rights to it, and, boy, did we ever have a bees’ nest on our hands.  We had everybody fighting us from Hollywood to the most Christian boardrooms in America.  We just kept pressing on knowing that we were supposed to do it. I remember every step of the way it just had to be through prayer.  When God calls you to do something, whatever your business is, I believe in investing into the Kingdom of God, but you might be called to be a commercial appraiser so that God can bless you to support the Kingdom of God.  I was just blessed by being involved in a business that is about Christian media and Christian subjects.

The vice president that came from Disney, said, “Yes, I saw that too.”  I said, “Well, I don’t see where it says we have to do that before it is on DVD.”  All of a sudden heads snapped back.  I said, “It just says we have to put it in theaters, but it doesn’t say we have to put it in theaters before the DVD.”  So that was our saving card that we could release it on DVD.  

So we proceeded to release it on DVD, and Wal-Mart said, “Well, we won’t take it unless it is in theaters,” and theaters won’t take it if it is on DVD first. They don’t know our God, do they?
Well, our Disney executive that sold many DVDs to Wal-Mart met with a lot of resistance. He tried and tried and tried, but Wal-Mart wouldn’t take them.

God told me, he said, “I want you to do a concert.”   So I said, “Okay, God,” and a dear brother of mine by the name of George King owned Reunion Records, and I gave him a call.  I said, “George, I want to do a soundtrack on Left Behind,” and he said, “Would you do it with me?” I will help you finance it, but I want to get one done.”

We picked Rebecca St. James and some musicians and singers, and we put together a music tour.  So we went out on the music tour, and I said I want to take the tour to Bentonville, Arkansas because that’s the home of Wal-Mart. I wanted to get the largest Baptist church that was there.  I don’t know why, but that’s what I wanted.

We took the music tour there, and everything was great.  They had a good time, and Kirk Cameron walked out on stage.  I remember when I first selected Kirk Cameron on cast in the Left Behind movie.  Everybody went, “Who?”  I said, “Kirk Cameron.”  “Isn’t he the guy from that old TV show?”  I said, “Yes, he is a Christian.”  

“Why Kirk Cameron?”  I said, “Trust me.  I just want Kirk Cameron.”  So we called up, and Kirk agreed to do it.  His wife was present.  She said, “Yes, Kirk, you do it,” and I forgot who Kirk had married, and Kirk said, “Well, will you use my wife in the film also so that we can be together when we come up to Toronto?” and I said sure. Send us a snapshot.  I said, “Now that’s Hattie. That’s the perfect Hattie for the movie.”  So she played the lead female role. They asked who was going to be the pilot, and I said I would like the Marlboro Man, and they went “What?”  They said what is his name?  I said "I don’t know."
“You want the Marlboro Man?”  I said, “I said I read in a magazine that he is the most recognized face in America, but I said nobody knows his name.”  So I said he should be pretty reasonable to get.  I mean we are talking dollars.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t know movie the business. You are supposed to go through casting agents.  I mean I just said I would like to have that guy.  Well, anyway, I called him up, and wouldn’t you know it?  His wife is a fanatical Christian just like you and me.  

She said, “Honey, you are doing the movie or you are sleeping in the doghouse.  So he says, “I guess I am doing the movie,” and she said, “You just do it for whatever they pay you.”  So we didn’t have to negotiate. Besides we didn’t have a lot of money to pay him anyway.  So he came on, and we had Brad as the pilot. God just put it all together.  I was so thankful for that, but here I am in this dilemma and I needed to sell 600,000 DVD copies of the movie, and Wal-Mart won’t take it until it has been in the theater.

Well, we needed the DVD sales to be able to do a theater later.  We took the show to Plano, Texas.  How many know how far away that is?  Not very far, right?  We went to the church in Plano, Texas, and we put on the first concert there.  I flew Peter Rowan in, and we were sitting there and the place was full.  We had the lights dimmed down, and they were playing the concert music, and all of a sudden Kirk Cameron came up out on the rising stage with all the smoke and music.

When he came into view, all of a sudden the place went crazy.  Teenage girls were there with their mothers and grandmothers.  I mean the grandmothers used to see this boy when he was on TV.  The mother had a crush on him, and now the second generation was watching the show on reruns, and the second generation was having a crush on Kirk Cameron.  The place just exploded, and I remember that Peter Rowan turned around and punched me in the arm and said, “Now I know why you wanted Kirk Cameron.”  I said, “Yeah, that’s exactly why.”  Why?  Because God was showing and teaching me what to do.  God will show you and teach you what to do.

You see God is a strategist.  Read through the Bible, and you will see in all the wars and all the blessings how God strategized.  I love studying the Old Testament.  God was teaching me how to strategize according to Him, and so I took that same concert and went to Bentonville, Arkansas.  
Two weeks later I was at a conference and this girl walks up to me, and she said, “I want to give you this business card,” not exactly my card, but she said, “This is the head buyer for Wal-Mart.”  On the back it listed a personal cellphone.  His wife was at a concert two weeks ago and heard about this Left Behind movie coming out, and everybody is so excited in their church, and he wants to know about it.  

So I took that card, and I put it in my pocket.  You see, going along with this process even in the Christian business, the devil doesn’t like it, and I was getting so much opposition in the company.  Everybody was getting worried.  Our bank account was going down, and we had spent all the money making the movie.  We hardly had enough money to make the DVDs for the marketplace.  

We were sitting there, and it was very tight, upsetting the executive meeting, and the Disney guy was on the hot-seat.  “Well, why haven’t you got it into Wal-Mart?  Did you tell them they could have it at whatever price?  I said, “My Wal-Mart buyer won’t even talk about it.” Finally I said, “How would you like the business card and cell phone number for the head buyer of Wal-Mart?” They just about fell off their chairs, and I said, “Yeah, he would like me to call.”  “When did you get it?”  “Oh, about a week ago.”  “And you haven’t called him yet?”  I said, “No, the Lord hasn’t told me to call him yet.”

The Disney guy reached over to take the card.  I said, “Excuse me.  God didn’t give it to you.  He gave it to me.”  I picked up the phone and gave him a call, and we went to meet with him.  He says, “I don’t know what you did, but you got my wife fired up so much there is no living with her.  If I don’t take those DVDs in I am going to be in so much trouble.”  He said, “I never even heard of these Left Behind DVDs before,” but he says “I got to take some in.”  I said, “How many are you going to take in?”  He said, “I will take 300,000 copies.”

That was a wonderful piece of news.  However, at a dollar apiece for the DVDs, guess what?  We didn’t have the $300,000 to make the copies to take to Wal-Mart.  I went back to my office, and I said, “Lord, thank you for your blessing, but, Lord, I need your help.”  I picked up the phone, and I called Technicolor, and Technicolor agreed to finance the DVDs because they were going to Wal-Mart was going to sell them.  Thank you, Jesus.

Long story short, we had the release of the DVD.  We didn’t even know how we were going to get them out there.  Some of our people had to stop taking paychecks.  The 300,000 DVD copies went out, and then, of course, all of a sudden we started hearing all the stories.  “Oh, yeah.  Wal-Mart does that all the time.  They take in 300,000 DVDs, and they sell twenty and they ship the rest back to you.”

“Yeah, if you don’t do it on the first weekend, that’s it.  They just cancel and send them back.”

So the first weekend came and went, and the Christian bookstore market did okay.  I wouldn’t say they did rock star fabulous, but they did okay.  We were glad for that.  Then I got a call from Eddie Tutt’s office at Wal-Mart, and I went uh, oh, because I heard if they didn’t sell 60 percent they would ship them back.  

So I got on the phone, and he said to me, “I don’t know what you did, but we sold out of those 300,000 DVD copies.”  Praise the Lord.  I talked to him for a couple of more minutes.  I went upstairs to see Peter Rowan, and he said, “What is the bad news?”  We had such faith.  Come on.  That’s exactly the way you would be too, and I said, “They sold them all.”  He was so happy.  I said, “Don’t get excited.  You remember they don’t pay for sixty days.  They just ordered another 300,000 DVDs.”  

Peter said, “Byron, we don’t have the money.”  I said, “All we can do is call back and ask Technicolor if they will supply the money.”  So we called back again.  Remember we didn’t have a charge card with them.  If you looked at our bank account, our balance was zero, but they said, “Well, as long as it is Wal-Mart we will fund it again.”  So they funded it, and we shipped 300,000 DVDs out again the next weekend.

We got the sales reports from the Christian bookstore marketplace, and they said, “Okay, you are doing good.  We are coming on.”  It was getting better in the second week.  Now we are worried.  Okay.  We shipped 300,000 the first time, and they sold out.  How are we going to do this second weekend?
I got a call from Eddie again.  I said, “Okay, Eddie.  How did we do the second weekend?”  He says, “We sold out again.”  Praise the Lord because I met my 600,000 goal. I saved my job.  Hallelujah.

He said, “But now I want 600,000 DVDs.”  Lord, I don’t have the $600,000 to make the copies.  I need Your favor because now I am going to run up a charge account at a company for 1.2 million dollars. I called Technicolor.  “We’ll have to call you back.”  I thought for sure he was just going to say no.  After a couple of hours they called back, and they said, “Okay.  We will fund the next batch.”  

So they sent them out.  The following Tuesday I didn’t get a call from Eddie.  I got a call from the U.S. Postal Service.  I thought, “I am just a little Canadian guy up in Canada.  Why is the U.S. Postal Service calling me?”  

I got on the phone, and I have these strange things that happen to me. I am on the phone, and he said, “Yes, this is --” I forget the name for your postal general in Washington.  I got on the phone with him, and he said, “Is this Mr. Byron Jones?”  He said it with such authority.  It was kind of like your banker calling.  All of a sudden your heart is in your feet.  

I said, “Yes.”  He said, “Is this Mr. Byron Jones from that Left Behind movie?”  “Yes.”  He said, “Are you responsible for having the U.S. mail pulled off the airplanes so we can ship your DVDs?”

I am like, uh, oh, that’s got to be bad.  I said I didn’t authorize that, and I start getting really worried.  He said, “Well, they had to pull the U.S. mail off the planes to get your DVDs delivered on time.” He said, “I just want to say Praise God.”  He said, “I am a Christian, and I love what is going on.”

I am thinking, “Wow, thank you, Lord”, but you see God is the one who goes ahead and does it.  Well, we were so excited because now we have sold just over a million DVDs.  Nobody has sold a million copies of a Christian movie up to that point.  

We had a deal with Universal Studios, and they were going to put the movie into the theaters.  So I came up with the plan and got a bunch of guys to work with me, and I said, “Let’s go to the churches and see if the churches will help put up $3,000 to bring the movie to the theaters, and they said, “Well, you won’t get the theaters,” and I said, “Well, I just have to raise the money.  Universal is doing the placement.  They place movies all the time.”  So I went out to the churches, and I had 2,000 churches that sent me $3,000 each.  You run the numbers.  In 45 days I raised $6,000,000 to take the movie to the theaters. Well, I was so excited I thought this is going to be the best Christmas ever.  It was the second week of Christmas.  Money was in the bank, and Universal Studios were moving along. Of course, the Disney executive, he took over the theatrical job because he hadn’t done so well on the DVDs.  So he took over the theatrical, and I said, “Well, that’s not my problem now,” and I was rolling along fine.

Two days before Christmas Peter Rowan came into my office and closes the door.  Never good when the president comes in and closes the door, and I said, “What’s up?”  He said, “Well, I feel bad.”  He said, “It is two days before Christmas.”  He said, “I just got out of the meeting upstairs.  Universal has canceled their contract.  They are refusing to take the Left Behind movie to the theaters.”  They said it was never been done before when a DVD goes to the theaters.  The theaters will probably not take it, and he said, “What do I do?” and I said, “Well, it is God’s problem, isn’t it?”  He said, “Yes, it is God’s problem and yours.”  I didn’t want to hear that.  The movie executive said to my buddy down the hall we can’t do it.  But I said, “I want you to do it.”  I said, “If you can’t do it, how do you think I can?”  He said, “Because you can pray.”

So I said, “I will tell you what.  I will pray over Christmas, and I will give you my answer January 2nd.”  Now we were supposed to release the movie on the first Friday in February.  At this point we didn’t have any arrangements with the theaters at all.  After the movie executive left, and I said, “Okay, God, what do I do?”  God said, “Call the owner of Regal Theaters.”

So I picked up the phone, and I gave them a call.  Fortunately I had some dealings with him before in the past, and I got him on the phone. I said, “I need some theaters.”  He says, “For what?”  I said, “I don’t know if you ever heard of a movie entitled Left Behind.”  
“Oh, that one.”  The theater executive said, “Well, why didn’t you call me before you put it on DVD everywhere?”

All of a sudden I had a feeling the theater executive was going to say “No.”  I said, “Lord, give me favor.”  I said, “I want to put it in your theater chain.”  He said, “We can’t do that.”  I said, “I know that.”  I said, “And why don’t you?”  

He said, “This movie has already been out on DVD.  I have seen the sales charts.  I know how many they have sold.  Everybody that has wanted to see this movie has seen it already on DVD.” I said, “But I need the movie on theater screens.”  I said, “Tell you what.  What is your lowest grossing movie this past week?”

The movie executive said, “$800.”  “So if I guarantee you $1,600 minimum cash, will you give me at least one screen in any theater I want?”  He says, “If you give me $1,600 per room, I can definitely schedule your movie.”  He said, “I will kick the lowest grossing movie out and put your movie in.”  I said, “Okay.  That’s a deal,” and I began to book the theaters. I was trying to reach for a hundred theaters, remember?  But I had $6,000,000 in the bank.  I had 2,000 locations where the churches had requested me to bring the movie.  

I came back after Christmas on January 2nd, and I said to Peter “God wants us to work.”  He said, “Well, I want it in more than a hundred theaters.”  So I took all my staff and put them in the boardroom, and I said, “We are going to pray.  We are going to take on the devil today.”  
We began booking theaters.  Now this is when they didn’t want Christian movies in the theaters, let alone a movie that has been on DVD, but you see when God is on your side the devil has to step away.  We booked 907 theaters.  We released this movie in 907 theaters after it had already been on DVD, and the DVDs were still selling like hotcakes at Wal-Mart.

So I felt like one of those clowns in the circus where the clown is spinning the plates on the little sticks and he is spinning this one and then he would run over and spin the next one and run back to spin another.  That’s what my job was like because I had a music tour going on.  Now I had the DVDs still selling everywhere.  Now I was on top of the theatrical scheduling trying to keep that spinning.  Some people wondered, “Well, how did you do it all?”  

I said, “Well, I just trusted the Lord.”

 

 

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