ROME – Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia paybox is boasting brisk biz on its “Vatican Museums 3D” docu which, after a stellar bow at the Italian box office last year, has now screened globally in 2,000 movie theaters in more than 50 territories, pulling in about $1.8 million and attesting to the success of an innovative distribution model.

The 64-minute docu delves into what some tout as the greatest art collection in history, exploring works by masters including Raphael, Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio using Ultra HD 4K/3D cameras and the “dimensionalization” technique used by James Cameron.

Directed by Marco Pianigiani, the docu is produced by Sky in partnership with the Directorate of the Vatican Museums.

After first airing in Italy on Sky’s 3D and Sky Arte HD channels in late 2013, the stereoscopic virtual “Vatican Museums” tour bowed theatrically in Italian cinemas in November 2014 via Nexo Digital, as a one-day-only event, scoring an impressive $360,000 and landing in the numero uno slot that day, beating out several blockbusters. Similar event theatrical releases have segued in, among other countries, France, where “Vatican Museums” pulled $278,000 via Pathe Live; the U.S., where it took $245,000 via SpectiCast; and the U.K., where it made $195,000, released by Brit event cinema specialist Omniverse Vision. Total admissions were 160,000 and counting. Homevid sales will follow.

The Vatican Museums attract more than 5 million visitors per year.

Sky Italia content chief Andrea Scrosati pointed out in a statement that docus like “Vatican Museums” are proof that the windows system that sets the release of a film first in movie theaters and subsequently on TV “is not an indisputable axiom” and that “innovative” distribution modes can produce growth for the entire sector.

“We are very proud of this outstanding result,” boasted Nexo Digital topper Franco Sarro. “We are sure that art on the bigscreen is a new frontier for the world of cinema.”

Besides releasing “Vatican Museums” in Italy, Nexo Digital also handled world sales. Sky Italia recently merged with sister companies BSkyB and Sky Deutschland in the recently formed Sky Europe.