Christian leaders and churches are planning to rent every screen in numerous multiplex theaters across 10 cities for the premiere of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's upcoming Jesus film, "Son of God," on Feb. 27.
The unusual move reflects the confidence Christian leaders have in Burnett and Downey's work in the wake of "The Bible," a hit miniseries on the History channel.
The "Son of God," an adaption from "The Bible" series, opens in theaters nationwide Feb. 28.
Many religious leaders are citing the movie as a natural opportunity to evangelize. Rick Warren, pastor and The New York Times best-selling author, has partnered with LifeWay Christian Resources to release a Bible study tied to the movie.
Cinemark Theaters is scheduling a few large-scale buyouts on Feb. 27, said James Meredith, head of marketing and communications.
"The interest level for meetings, events, screenings and buyouts seems to be on par with that of major blockbuster, tentpole or franchise movies," said Meredith.
The couple behind the show, producer Burnett and former "Touched by an Angel" star Downey, have enlisted interdenominational support from religious leaders such as Texas megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes and Roman Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.
The couple has also tapped Compassion International, a large evangelical relief organization, to distribute tickets to churches. The couple are close with Houston megachurch leaders Joel and Victoria Osteen, who flew to Morocco to see the filming and have bought 8,000 tickets to distribute.
Burnett, who has produced shows like "Survivor," "The Voice" and "Shark Tank," said he's never seen a buyout before.
"There aren't many things that could garner this kind of support," Burnett said. "People are going to watch the movie collectively, in community."
After Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" made $612 million, observers expected to see more films about Jesus. Several upcoming Bible-related films are now in the pipeline.
LD Entertainment is backing the upcoming film "Resurrection," a drama set immediately after Jesus' death. American Trademark Pictures is set to release "The Resurrection of the Christ." And the nonprofit In Jesus' Name Productions is planning to release a film on the life of Jesus called "The Messiah."
While evangelicals are often credited with shoring up support for movies like "The Passion of the Christ" and "Fireproof," Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl has commissioned discussion guides and videos for Catholic churches and schools, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami is planning to rent a theater for thousands of Catholics in Miami.
Several business leaders are also donating tickets to churches and nonprofits, including Mart Green, heir to the Hobby Lobby family of companies.
The film is about two hours long, featuring actor Diogo Morgado playing Jesus during his life, crucifixion and resurrection. Downey plays Mary, the mother of Jesus. Recording artist CeeLo Green, who stars on "The Voice," will sing "Mary, Did You Know?," written by Mark Lowery and Buddy Greene, during the closing credits.
CeeLo Green "Mary Did You Know" video