Nightly News   |  March 01, 2014

It Could Be a Genesis for Bible-Themed Films

“Son of God” is just the first in a flood of biblically themed movies headed to the big screen this year.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> holt: finally tonight, on oscar weekend, what might signal a box-office trend for the coming year. the christian-themed movie "son of god" had a huge opening night . that´s leading some to predict 2014 will be the year of the bible in american film . here is nbc´s mike taibbi . [ crowd shouting indistinctly ]

>> taibbi: breaking toward the top spot with nearly $10 million in opening-day ticket sales, the bible-themed movie "son of god," starring portuguese actor diogo morgado as jesus.

>> jesus: who do you think i am?

>> man: you are the son of god.

>> taibbi: it was a huge release -- 3,100 screens nationwide, says producer mark burnett .

>> burnett: this is a passion project for us. the most important thing is this movie gets seen and used. [ indistinct singing ]

>> taibbi: it certainly helped that the filmmakers spent months preaching to the converted, with megachurches nationwide, like joel osteen´s lakewood church in houston, spreading the message.

>> osteen: don´t forget, on this friday night, "the son of god" movie is coming out that we´re all supporting.

>> taibbi: and the crowds who came out got what they came for.

>> man: we need more of this in the world.

>> woman: it´s about the bible and christianity. i don´t think you can really go wrong with it.

>> taibbi: how do you fill these seats? a distributor of niche films once famously said you hunt where the ducks are. and this niche, more than 100 million weekly churchgoers, is huge. in fact, "the son of god" is the first of some 14 christian-themed movies scheduled for release this year, with the upcoming "noah" with russell crowe and "exodus" with christian bale . will this be the movie world´s year of the bible?

>> dergarabedian: if enough of them do well, we´re gonna see more of these in the future.

>> taibbi: it can be tricky. that´s why paramount says its epic is... but when a christian-themed movie hits the crossover sweet spot , like "the passion of christ" did a decade ago by the weight of $400 million in u.s. ticket sales, the results can be miraculous. mike taibbi , nbc news, los angeles .