Church groups “taking over” theatres for Son of God

Church groups “taking over” theatres for Son of God February 14, 2014

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”.

So if anyone heads to the local multiplex that night to, say, catch up on their Oscar nominees (the awards ceremony takes place that weekend, on March 2), or indeed to see anything else, they may find their efforts thwarted. As one church rep quoted in the Reporter’s story says: “If anyone comes to the theater to see another movie that night, they’ll be out of luck, unless we have a few extra tickets to give them!”

While the main impetus for these “take-overs” seems to be coming from English-speaking evangelicals and other Protestants, the Reporter says “take-overs” have also been planned for Catholic, Spanish and Korean audiences.

Quite a few churches bought out entire screening rooms when The Passion of the Christ (2004) came out ten years ago, but I don’t recall hearing of entire multiplexes being booked for that film. I suppose it could have happened, though.

The Reporter ran another story last week looking at how producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey promoted the film at last week’s National Prayer Breakfast, and along the way Downey made a claim that didn’t strike me as entirely accurate.

To wit, she is quoted as saying that Jesus “hasn’t been on the big screen in a film since The Passion of the Christ, and that was 10 years ago … and his whole life hasn’t been on the big screen in almost 50 years, since The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

But I can think of at least one other film that covered the entire life of Jesus and was distributed by a secular company, namely the Campus Crusade film Jesus (1979), which was distributed by Warner Brothers back in the day. That film celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, and I’ll have more to say about that in another post.

February 15 update: I just checked my notes from the pastors’ screening of Son of God that I attended three months ago, and I was reminded that the church leaders there talked openly of “taking back” the media and even of “occupying” theatres, etc. So, if you were wondering where this “take-over” rhetoric was coming from…

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