Religious stories sell for Hollywood

Published: Thursday, Sept. 5 2013 10:10 a.m. MDT

The History Channel's The History Channel's "The Bible" bested popular programming like CBS' "60 Minutes," NBC's "Dateline" and AMC's "The Walking Dead." (Screenshot History.com)

“Faith-based” seems to be the name of the game in Hollywood’s newest trend, with Bible movies and TV series lined up for the fall and into 2014. On Aug. 29, The Christian Science Monitor ran an article titled “Hollywood’s next big thing: religion,” by Gloria Goodale, that explains the shift back to religious entertainment.

“The deluge of religious programming suggests that a decade after Mel Gibson parlayed the self-financed ‘Passion of the Christ’ into a half-billion dollar box office blockbuster, Hollywood is finally figuring out how to turn the Bible into big bucks,” Goodale wrote in the article.

The article says that Hollywood began with popular Bible productions such as “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben-Hur,” but later got lost in its own remakes and sequels. But 2014 productions return to biblical stories with an NBC series about Moses, as well as a film about Noah starring Russell Crowe.

“Hollywood is more and more unable to create original stories,” said Barbara Nicolosi Harrington, writer of the original screenplay for the projected 2014 Lionsgate film, “Mary, Mother of Christ,” in the article. “The industry is reaching for biblical stories because they have name recognition, high stakes, a built-in ‘fan base,’ and an epic quality that seems ideal for today's CGI technology.”

In the article, professor Bryan Stone, academic dean at Boston School of Theology, said that Hollywood is quick to highlight unusual aspects of religion over the mainstream.

“Hollywood is attracted to the bizarre and unusual in religion,” the article says. “One of the fast developing trends is the exploitation of faith as reality television.”

Read the entire article on The Christian Science Monitor.

Abby Stevens is a writer for the DeseretNews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact her at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

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