Feb. 27, 2014 at 9:02 AM ET
Hollywood blockbusters are rarely aimed at the churchgoing faithful, but a new trend in Bible-based movies may soon have them flocking to theaters. Three films — "Son of God," "Noah" and "Exodus" — all draw from the best-selling book of all time for their source material, and producers are hoping to spread the good word — while also being blessed with big box office earnings.
"Clearly, 2014 is being dubbed the year of the Bible," "Son of God" producer Mark Burnett told NBC News reporter Joe Fryer. Burnett should know: His 2013 "Bible" miniseries was a huge hit on History, and he's now selectively edited out the Jesus story from that series and added new scenes (plus excised Satan) for the film "Son of God."
"This is a passion project for us," he said. "The most important thing is (that) this movie gets seen and used."
As Fryer noted, the challenge for any film based on the Bible is how to hew to the original material while still translating into mass appeal. In 2004, "The Passion of the Christ" did just that, generating more than $370 million in U.S. box office, but also creating a lot of controversy over the story's focus.
March release "Noah," starring Russell Crowe, has already generated some controversy over its plot. "Exodus," due out in late 2014, stars Christian Bale as Moses and so far hasn't generated much discussion.
But "Son of God" is the first of the three to come out, and so has the highest profile in the media. And it's likely to have a solid turnout, at least on its first weekend, if motivational speaker Joel Osteen has anything to say about it. A donor pre-purchased 9,000 tickets to a screening, and Osteen helped distribute them through his Lakewood church.
"Not knocking any other movies, but I do believe that people of faith are looking for wholesome things," said Osteen.
And as it says in the Bible, "Seek, and ye shall find."
"Son of God" opens in theaters on Feb. 28; "Noah" on March 28; and "Exodus" on Dec. 12.