The Bible sequel A.D. gets the green light for spring 2015

I was just finishing my last post, which partly concerned Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s recent decision to produce a mini-series about the siege of Masada for CBS, when word came over the internet that NBC had greenlit one of their other projects: a 12-hour sequel to The Bible that was once called A.D.: Beyond the Bible but now simply goes by the name A.D.

I included a brief link to that press release in my previous post, but I think it merits a blog post all its own, since it includes a few new details about the mini-series.

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Newsbites: The first-century Jewish zealot edition!

Bit of a delayed reaction here, as I was under the weather when these two news items surfaced last week.

First, The Bible producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are producing an adaptation of The Dovekeepers, an Alice Hoffman novel that takes place during the siege of Masada, which marked the end of the First Jewish-Roman War in AD 73.

Burnett and Downey are already working on a sequel to The Bible that will mix the history of the early church with secular accounts of the Jewish rebellion against the Romans, etc. But it sounds like The Dovekeepers — which follows the stories of four women who end up at Masada during the siege — will focus more narrowly on the Jewish rebellion.

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Bible epics are back on the silver screen

BIBLE EPICS are back, and coming soon to a theatre near you.

The genre – which was very popular in the silent era and then, again, during the post-war boom of the 1950s and early 1960s – never went away entirely. Low-budget films like The Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ have offered radically different, even opposite, interpretations of the life and death of Jesus. And there has been a steady stream of Bible films on television going back to at least the 1970s.

But when Paramount Pictures releases Noah – starring Russell Crowe and rumoured to have cost over $125 million – in March, it will mark the first time that a big-budget live-action Bible epic has been made for the big screen since Richard Gere starred in King David back in 1985. (The Prince of Egypt, released in 1998, was also a major Hollywood production, but it was an animated film, and so arguably doesn’t quite belong in the same category.)

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Son of God — the trailer is now online

It is not uncommon for TV shows made in one country to get theatrical releases in another; think of how some of Ingmar Bergman’s films, such as Scenes from a Marriage (1973) and its sequel Saraband (2003), were produced for Swedish television and released in American theatres, or of how Steven Spielberg’s classic TV-movie Duel (1971) got a theatrical release in Europe.

And it is not uncommon for popular TV shows to have big-screen follow-ups, from the Star Trek and X-Files movies to High School Musical 3 (2008).

But when was the last time a North American TV show got repackaged for North American theatres? Outside of festival screenings and similar one-shot presentations, when was the last time a studio asked people who had already seen a show on TV to pay for the privilege of seeing it all over again on the big screen?

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How do you promote a Bible epic when you’re not religious?

Ridley Scott first revealed that he was making a life-of-Moses movie while promoting Prometheus last year. I’d been hoping that he would spill even more details about the film, now called Exodus, while promoting his latest film, The Counselor, but alas, that film didn’t get much of a promotional push (and it ended up having one of the worst opening weekends of Scott’s career).

A few tidbits about Exodus have trickled out, however. First, Scott told The New York Times: “I’m an atheist, which is actually good, because I’ve got to convince myself the story works.” And then, he told Empire magazine the film will be “fucking huge.”

Suffice it to say, this is not how Bible epics have generally been promoted in the past.

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The Bible producers ponder theatrical distribution offers

Between Noah and Exodus, I’ve already mentioned here a few times that next year could mark the first time since the early ’60s that two big-budget Bible movies have been released to theatres within the same calendar year. But there’s a third film waiting in the wings, too, and it just happens to be the only one of the three that is based on the New Testament rather than the Old. That film is Son of God, the 135-minute movie extracted from the Jesus sections of The Bible — and Variety reports that producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have hired industry veteran Tom Sherak to advise them as they consider offers from various distributors. Variety says some sort of deal should be finalized “in the next few weeks, if not sooner,” and the current plan is to release the film in March, “to coincide with Easter” — though Easter is actually on April 20 next year, so it might be more accurate to say the release would coincide with Lent. Incidentally, Noah is currently set to come out March 28, so if Son of God really is released during Lent, you could see two mainstream Bible movies playing at multiplexes everywhere simultaneously — which would have to be some kind of first. (Exodus, for its part, won’t come out until December.)


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