'The Bible' Producers Resurrect Jesus Expanded

Pic derived from Mark Burnett/Roma Downey miniseries to tell story of Jesus

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have struck a distribution pact with 20th Century Fox for a feature film, “Son of God,” derived from the pair’s 10-hour miniseries “The Bible.”

Pic will focus on the story of Jesus, played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, from his birth through the Resurrection. The movie is distilled from the Emmy-nominated mini that aired in March on History and augmented with scenes not featured in the telecast. “Bible” aired in the U.S. to an average of 15 million-plus viewers for its five two-hour installments; it’s now rolling out to big auds in overseas markets.

The studio is still working out a release date for next year. The sides are also hammering out the international distrib components of the pact.

Fox sees the project as a chance to nab a proven property that will be a big draw with faith-motivated auds but also has the ability to pull in other adult demos. The studio was the natural home for “Son of God” as Fox Home Entertainment is already handling the homevid distribution of the miniseries. “Bible” has moved more than 1 million units since its April release and ranks as the top-selling TV-to-disc title of the past two years, per Fox.

“We’ve had the good fortune to work with (Fox topper) Jim Gianopulos and his team for the past year on ‘The Bible’ (homevid),” said Burnett. “While we appreciated the interest from other distributors, Fox was the right choice for us. This movie deserves a big studio behind it. We have crafted a powerful standalone movie that is a completely emotional, uplifting experience for audiences.”

“Son of God” runs two hours and 15 minutes and is a complete re-edit of the Jesus storyline from the mini. Fox Home Entertainment will also distrib a homevid release of the film edit.

The notion of pulling a theatrical release out of a miniseries is a characteristically convention-defying move from Burnett, the mastermind of “The Voice,” “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” and other unscripted primetime hits. Burnett and Downey own “Bible” franchise outright, having secured independent financing through their Lightworkers Media banner for the production of the miniseries. Early on the pair had the idea that a feature film focused on the Jesus story could be culled from the larger story arc of the mini.

Burnett and Downey tapped former Fox and Revolution Studios exec Tom Sherak to help broker the feature distribution deal. There were multiple suitors for “Son of God” that offered bids during the past few weeks. The Fox agreement was set Wednesday evening by Sherak, Brian Edwards, COO of Burnett’s One Three Media banner, and Gianopulos.

The film release promises to add another large dimension to a project that has been embraced by a range of faith leaders — whose endorsements undoubtedly helped boost viewership for the mini. “Son of God” has clear potential to reach the kind of auds that rarely hit the multiplexes for other Hollywood fare. But the miniseries’ ratings proved that it also had mainstream appeal.

“Bible” has been a four-year odyssey for Burnett and Downey. The married couple spearheaded the writing and production of the mini, most of which was shot on location in Morocco. Downey also costars as Mary.

The pair are working on a followup, “AD: Beyond the Bible,” as a regular series for NBC.

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