NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, March 5, 2016, 7:44 PM
Jennifer Garner, Queen Latifah and Kylie Rogers star in “Miracles From Heaven,” one of several Christian-themed films to be released to movie theaters.
Hollywood is clearly taking a page from the Bible — especially that whole “be fruitful and multiply” part.
A bushel of Christian-themed movies are coming to theaters just in time for Easter. Films like “Risen,” which is in theaters now, “The Young Messiah,” which opens Friday, “Miracles From Heaven,” coming March 18, and “God’s Not Dead 2,” on April 1 are omens that the industry has been converted to the idea of getting a previously underserved segment of the population to congregate in multiplexes.
“There are great stories in the Bible, whether it’s the Old or New Testament,” says “The Young Messiah” producer Chris Columbus, who is best known as the director of the first two “Harry Potter” movies.
Once looked down on as a genre best left behind for the straight-to-DVD market, recent hits like “War Room” and “God’s Not Dead” earned 30 times their production costs at the box office. The holy grail, of course, is Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which grossed $ 370.3 million at the box office. But that was the type of phenomenon that comes along as often as biblical floods.
“The Young Messiah” follows the life of a 7-year-old Jesus returning to Bethlehem with a Roman assassin on his heels.
Based on a novel by Anne Rice, “The Young Messiah” follows the life of a 7-year-old Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) who is returning to Bethlehem, performing miracles along the way, with a Roman assassin (Sean Bean) on his heels.
For the Catholic-raised Columbus, it’s a calling he’s felt since he first watched the sweeping biblical epics of the 1950s and ’60s, including “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
“It was always in my head back since film school that I would love to someday do a movie about Jesus, who is depicted as a charming, mesmerizing person who was a leader of these people,” Columbus says.
“Miracles From Heaven” producer DeVon Franklin says there was no problem convincing big name stars Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah to sign on for the adaptation of Christy Beam’s faith-filled memoir about a young girl’s miraculous recovery from a rare disease. There was a time when it would be a tougher sell to an agent.
Adam Greaves-Neal plays Jesus in “The Young Messiah,” who performs miracles on the way to Bethlehem.
“There may have been a stigma once,” says Franklin, “but it’s very much disappearing because the quality of storytelling is improving, the quality of scripts, the quality of productions in the genre is improving.”
Columbus says the key to not offending with “The Young Messiah” was to enlist an adviser from the Vatican for approval.
But when the Christian communities do believe — they’ll not only go, they’ll spread the gospel. Franklin saw it up close with his last movie, the 2014 tear-jerker “Heaven Is Real,” which grossed $ 92 million off a $ 12 million budget, buoyed by a grass-roots campaign on the part of church groups.
“It’s important to have integrity,” says Franklin. “I’ve been a Christian all my life, so when these opportunities come about to talk to a community about a film that I produced, I’m them and they’re me.”