Newsmax is reporting that industry estimates for the film's opening weekend have already risen from $13 to $22.5 million as more and more religious leaders across the country opt to rent screens to premier the film.
Rated PG 13 only because of an intense and bloody depiction of the crucifixion, the story covers the life of Jesus from His birth to His resurrection. It also includes footage from the enormously popular 2013 Emmy-nominated TV series, The Bible, which was also a Burnett-Downey production.
Set for nationwide release Friday, pastors such as Rick Warren are encouraging other church leaders to use the film for group discussions and to evangelize. Warren, who is senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., told Newsmax he has created a six-week series using scenes from Son of God, centered on themes such as baptism, temptation and suffering.
"Our entire church is going to study this series after the movie,” he said. “For the six weeks leading to Easter, this is just the hand of God, that this movie comes out 10 years exactly after The Passion and six weeks before Easter. This is the perfect Lent series."
A decision to cut scenes that included a Satan character who many believed looked too much like President Obama caused a brief stir, but Downey said they did so because it became too much of a distraction for a film intended to "spread goodness" she wrote.
“But for our movie, Son of God, I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus,” she explained. “I want his name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting room floor. This is now a movie about Jesus, the Son of God, and the devil gets no more screen time, no more distractions.”
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