Hollywood banks on Bible-themed movies

Hollywood banks on Bible-themed movies

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A string of bible-themed blockbusters is bringing Hollywood and the holy word together again. Mel Gibson shocked theatergoers and critics alike, and attracted accusations of anti-Semitism with his graphic retelling of the last hours of Jesus Christ. Still, "The Passion of the Christ" emerged victorious from the hailstorm of controversy surrounding it to become a blockbuster hit and the highest grossing independent film of all time.

Father Jonathan Morris worked as a consultant on the movie.

"What we're seeing right now with Noah, with Son of God and others I believe is consequence of Mel Gibson being successful, for all his personal failures that came after," Morris said.

"The Passion of the Christ" proved, beyond debate, that Christian films have a die-hard audience that has since turned out for independent faith-based films in huge numbers.

Now mainstream Hollywood is taking note.

"People look to these epic mythical stories that have been around for centuries and they still resonate today because they give us the sense that humanity can transcend its situation, that we can redeem our reality," said Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, a Christian minister and speaker.

Reality TV producer Mark Burnett and actress wife Roma Downey are bringing Jesus back to the big screen in "Son of God" next Friday. It is a full length feature film about the Christian leader spawned from their record-breaking History Channel miniseries "The Bible." Christian communities have already bought 500,000 tickets in presales.

"After the success of their TV series they realized that there is a family audience that is very hungry for entertainment that is uplifting and hopeful," Crumpton said. "They're really wanting pastors to rent out theaters and screens and bring church groups… to meet Jesus."

The biblical epic gets the a-list treatment when "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky's "Noah," starring Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, hits theaters in March.

In December, Christian Bale steps into the role of Moses in Ridley Scott's "Exodus."

Hollywood's faith in spiritual dramas largely hinges on the success of these big-budget Bible movies. One thing's for sure: with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake these filmmakers are praying like never before.

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