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'Son of God': Church Leaders Buying Out Theaters For Screenings

Religious organizations are seeking to flood multiplexes with faithful audiences for the Fox-distributed film about Jesus Christ, based on the hit "Bible" miniseries.

Church groups are seeking to take over entire theaters for opening night screenings of Son of God, the upcoming movie about the life of Jesus Christ.

Various religious organizations throughout the country have been buying out screens and distributing tickets to groups of thousands of people for "Theater Take-Overs" on Thursday, Feb. 27, the night before the film's officially released, according to production company Lightworkers Media.

Crossroads Church in Cincinnati is bringing thousands of people to a Cinemark theater, where Son of God will be showing on 13 screens at the same time.

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"Our church bought out every screen in the theater," Crossroads' Brian Wells said in a statement. 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!”

There are a few other theater buyouts for Son of God scheduled at Cinemark locations throughout the country, according to the theater chain's marketing and communications head James Meredith.

"It’s very interesting to see this level of excitement around the movie," Meredith said in a statement. "The interest level for meetings, events, screenings and buyouts seems to be on par with that of major blockbuster, tentpole or franchise movies."

Mega-church pastor Rick Warren is buying out screens in eight different theaters throughout Orange County.

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"I’ve seen most of the films about Jesus produced in the past 50 years, and Son of God is the best,“ Warren said in a statement. “We’re excited Jesus is back on the big screen, and we’re going to fill the theaters. I want every other faith leader in America to do the same. Whether you can buy out a whole theater, or just one screen, now is the time to show up. This is a rare opportunity to bring the story of Christ into our mainstream culture. We want to see Jesus in movie theaters where sight and sound can open up our senses and let grace come in. The message of the Gospel deserves to be on the big screen – and this is our chance to see it there."

Other churches and organizations, ranging in size from 10,000 to 4 million, are distributing tickets for a "Theater Take-Over." Some pastors will also buy out screens showing the film in Spanish and Korean. There's even a Catholic "Theater Take-Over" planned for Miami.

Various business leaders throughout the country are also donating tickets to churches and non-profits.

Son of God is a version of the hit Bible miniseries, featuring new and used footage, focused just on the story of Jesus Christ. The Bible averaged 11.4 million viewers during its five-week run on the History channel and became the top-selling miniseries on DVD of all time.

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The film was produced by The Bible's Mark Burnett and wife Roma Downey.

"We’re very excited that the community is mobilizing to support Son of God," Burnett and Downey said in a statement. "The grass roots support is so important and the faith community is amazing when it mobilizes. Our hope is that the story and message of Jesus Christ will reach tens of millions of people nationwide."

Burnett and Downey already promoted the film at last week's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

"We are going to spend around $10 million on commercials, and that is nothing. You may not even see a commercial for this. ... The only chance we've got is the church community spreading the word," Burnett said at the prayer breakfast, where 30 minutes of the film was shown to the audience. "We carried the backpack so far. We made it; we unbelievably got it in theaters everywhere. It's now a great time for people to bring groups and bring people with them who need this message, who need to know who Jesus is."

Burnett and Downey involved key Christian figures in the production of the film, including Warren and Hispanic Evangelical Alliance president Rev. Sam Rodriguez.

The film is just one of multiple Bible-based movies being released this year, including Darren Aronofsky's Noah, starring Russell Crowe, which Paramount is releasing March 28 and Ridley Scott's Exodus, starring Christian Bale as Moses, which Fox plans to release Dec. 12.