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‘Ben-Hur’ gathers the faithful

Edition to be marketed to the religious

Warner is getting biblical on “Ben-Hur.”

Eager to capitalize on the enduring religious appeal of the 1959 epic, the studio has created a separate edition of its upcoming collector’s edition DVD — complete with a Bible study guide.

The edition contains all the extras of the regular four-disc set, but will be marketed directly to the religious market.

The studio spent more than a year and a half cleaning up the original 65mm “Ben-Hur” negative and assembling extras, including the original 1925 silent version of the epic for the collector’s edition. Both versions debut Sept. 13 and supplant a single-disc version released in 2000, which wasn’t framed properly.

“We always knew we would have to go back and do it again,” says George Feltenstein, senior VP of classic catalog at Warner Home Video. “But we knew with the growth of DVD we could make that investment.”

Religious marketing schemes are nothing new in Hollywood: Before “Ben-Hur” hit the bigscreen, Paramount erected tablets around the country to promote that other Charlton Heston Bible pic, “The Ten Commandments.”

And, Feltenstein insists the grass-roots success of “The Passion of the Christ” had nothing to do with the “Ben-Hur” initiative.

“It’s just a little something extra we are doing,” he says, projecting additional sales from the version as incremental.

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