In news that will surprise no one, religious groups are already deifying "Son of God," even if it doesn't open for another week.
Compassion International, a Christian group that sponsors children in poverty-stricken nations, told The Hollywood Reporter that it purchased 225,000 tickets across 40 cities. The group has bought out entire screenings in some cases, working with local churches to distribute the tickets.
A second group, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, the largest Christian college in the world, bought out all 14 screens of a Regal multiplex near the Virginia campus. The theater will show nothing but "Son of God" on the movie's opening day, which leaves Liberty to give away tickets by the thousands.
Compassion International and Liberty University aren't the only religious institutions jonesing to see "Son of God." Megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Joel Osteen have both joined the movement, as have San Diego's Rock Church and others. Osteen and his wife purchased 8,000 tickets to distribute. THR reports that, per industry insiders, nearly 500,000 advance tickets have already been purchased, which means the "Bible" redo will open with a substantial box office tally intact. The congregation-heavy sales are reminiscent of 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," which went on to collect $612 million worldwide.
"Son of God" is a rare faith-based movie that isn't steeped in controversy, which gives way to easy evangelism opportunities for church communities. Given the massive success of the History miniseries on which it's based, the movie should continue to fare well once it opens, unlike many Christian-themed movies. Recent underperformers include 2006's "The Nativity Story" and 2008's "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie."
"Son of God" will open opposite the Liam Neeson thriller "Non-Stop" and an "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" re-release that features 763 new jokes.