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Bringing the Gospels Back to the Big Screen

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It’s been ten years since The Passion of the Christ defied conventional movie wisdom and grossed $612 million worldwide. In the ensuing decade, no Bible-based movie has come close to matching the box-office receipts generated by Mel Gibson’s blockbuster. But now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “after several false starts, competing producers are attempting a natural follow-up about Christ’s resurrection” (Mar. 15, 2013).

Given moviemakers’ penchant for seeking to capitalize further on any successful outing — few are the popular films that don’t generate sequels or spinoffs — the only real surprise is that it’s taken so long. But, as most moviegoers know, save for rare occasions, follow-ups are subject to the laws of diminishing returns. The buzz about the “race to resurrect Jesus onscreen,” as The Hollywood Reporter calls it, suggests that this will be no exception.

The “inside track” reportedly belongs to Tim LaHaye Productions, the cinematic wing of the man responsible for the “rapture fiction” Left Behind book and film series. In 2006 LaHaye — a noted anti-Semite and anti-Catholic (he once called Catholicism “a false religion”) — agreed to a deal with Sony’s Screen Gems to produce The Resurrection, a deal that was shelved when Sony’s president was ousted later that year. In the interim, LaHaye Productions has reportedly raised $20 million toward completion of the film, which has a tentative release date planned to coincide with Easter 2015.

But LaHaye has some serious competition. According to The Reporter, American Trademark Pictures “says it has $30 million to produce and $45 million from FilmCrest” — the company that provided the initial film prints and advertising funding for The Passion (and for Snakes on a Plane, among others) — “to release The Resurrection of the Christ.” Perhaps because the working title is only one word removed from that of Gibson’s film and infringement is likely a concern, an alternative title, Golgotha, is being considered. Whatever it ends up being called, the story, says producer Bill McKay, will be “told from the perspective of the Romans.” Predictably, his team is toying with the idea of making this the first of a trilogy.

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