As the premiere date of the new biblical drama "Son of God" nears, church groups are rallying in hopes that the movie will strengthen the religious community and inspire non-believers.
"Son of God" is based on last year's wildly successful History Channel miniseries, "The Bible," which was co-produced by husband and wife duo Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. The series enjoyed epic ratings, averaging an estimated 11.4 million viewers during its five-week run.
The movie version, scheduled to premiere next week, will feature both new and used footage, but will focus mainly on the life of Jesus Christ, played by Diogo Morgado.
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Church groups and well-known religious figures are promoting the film by buying out entire theaters and screenings of "Son of God."
"We’re very excited that the community is mobilizing to support 'Son of God,'" Burnett and Downey said in a statement. "The grass roots support is so important and the faith community is amazing when it mobilizes. Our hope is that the story and message of Jesus Christ will reach tens of millions of people nationwide."
Celebrity pastor Rick Warren himself bought out eight screens throughout Orange County, Calif.
"We're excited Jesus is back on the big screen, and we’re going to fill the theaters," Warren told The Hollywood Reporter.
"I want every other faith leader in America to do the same. Whether you can buy out a whole theater, or just one screen, now is the time to show up. This is a rare opportunity to bring the story of Christ into our mainstream culture. We want to see Jesus in movie theaters where sight and sound can open up our senses and let grace come in."
Some were concerned about how the film would handle the depiction of the devil after "The Bible" had an actor resembling President Barack Obama play Satan
back in March.
But Downey said she and Burnett decided not to include the figure in "Son of God" so as to avoid distracting the audience.
"Somebody made a comment that the actor who played the devil vaguely resembled our president, and suddenly the media went nuts," Downey said in a statement last week. "The next day, when I was sure everyone would only be talking about Jesus, they were talking about Satan instead. For our movie, 'Son of God,' I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus. I want his name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out."
There are a handful of other faith-based movies also premiering this year, including Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" (March 28) and Ridley Scott's "Exodus" (Dec. 12).
"Son of God" hits theaters Feb. 28.
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