Newsbites: A.D.! Ben-Hur! Wilde Salomé!

burnett-downey-unitedartists1. First Mark Burnett and Roma Downey partnered with MGM (and Paramount) on producing the next big-screen version of Ben-Hur. Now the trades are reporting that MGM has bought a majority stake in the production companies run by Burnett and Downey — and, thus, a majority stake in their Bible-themed projects (as well as Burnett’s reality-TV shows, etc.).

Along the way, the trades mention that Burnett and Downey have started principal photography on A.D., their follow-up to The Bible, and that they could not be reached for additional comment because they are currently working on A.D. overseas.

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Ben-Hur gets Mark Burnett, Roma Downey & a release date

Apparently the new Ben-Hur is such a big, big deal that it requires the talents of nearly everyone who has worked on a Bible epic in recent months.

Two days ago, it was revealed that the studio behind Noah was going to co-produce this film, which MGM has been developing for over a year now.

And today, it was announced that Son of God producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have come on board the project too.

Is there a way to get any of the Exodus: Gods and Kings people involved, I wonder?

Even better, the film now has a release date — February 26, 2016 — according to both Deadline (which calls Burnett and Downey “Jesus Whisperers”, indicating perhaps that they have been brought on board not so much for their creative input as for their ability to sell films like this to the “faith-based” audience) and Variety.

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Is seeing a Bible movie on opening weekend more important than going to church? Is it a way of “honouring God”?

How eager were certain people to make Son of God a box-office hit? Pretty eager, I’d say.

Rick Warren declared, in a video touting one of the “theatre takeovers” that took place Thursday night, that Christians should “skip church and go see” the film on opening weekend, because “it’s that important.”

And on Saturday, Paul Lauer at Motive Entertainment, a Christian marketing firm, sent out an e-mail telling people: [Read more...]

Quick updates on A.D. and The Dovekeepers

Son of God producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett gave lots of interviews in the days leading up to that film’s theatrical release, and in a few of those interviews, they dropped a few hints about their follow-up projects A.D. and The Dovekeepers, both of which will also take place in first-century Palestine. Here’s a quick summary of what they’ve said.

First, in chronological terms, A.D. will start at the crucifixion of Jesus and cover the next 40 years of Jewish and Christian history, until the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, while The Dovekeepers will start with the destruction of the Temple and continue through to the Roman siege of Masada, which ended in AD 73. It’s not clear whether the two shows will air in chronological order — they’re being produced for different networks — but those are the historical periods they will cover.

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Son of God producers cast Satan out of their film

One of the more interesting things about last year’s mini-series The Bible was the way it linked the Old and New Testaments by making the character of Satan a recurring presence, from the Garden of Eden to the city of Sodom to the temptation and crucifixion of Jesus.

All of that footage, however, has been cut from Son of God, the big-screen Bible spin-off opening next week — partly because of a bogus controversy that erupted last year over the actor’s alleged resemblance to President Obama.

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Church groups “taking over” theatres for Son of God

Son of God, the big-screen life-of-Jesus movie spun off from last year’s mini-series The Bible, officially comes out two weeks from today — but some churches are giving their parishioners a chance to see the film slightly earlier than that.

The Hollywood Reporter says churches and other organizations around the U.S. are buying out entire theatres — not just individual screens, but entire multiplexes — for screenings of Son of God on Thursday February 27, the night before the official release date. Just to give the whole thing a feeling of conquest, they’re even calling these bookings “Theatre Take-Overs”.

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