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Hollywood's next big thing: religion

Hollywood is turning to the Bible for an array of new films and television shows. The success of 'The Bible' miniseries and 'The Passion of the Christ' suggest that religion could bring big bucks.

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This publicity image shows Diogo Morcaldo as Jesus (r.) in a scene from 'The Bible.' The History Channel mini-series has spawned a rush toward religious material in Hollywood.

Joe Alblas/History/AP

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As summer winds down, the hottest trend on Hollywood’s fall schedule appears to be religion. Faith-based entertainment is in the midst of a comeback, what with NBC announcing its sequel to “The Bible,” the highly rated cable mini-series; multiple upcoming movies about Moses; a new film about Noah (starring Russell Crowe); and a Ridley Scott production of Exodus.

And then there are the renewals of such ratings-busting shows as GSN’s “The American Bible Challenge,” back for a third season, and TLC’s announcement that not only will its franchise, “Breaking Amish: LA,” return, but there will be a reunion event as well. Add to that list ongoing reality shows such as “Preacher’s Daughters” and the list just keeps growing.

“We are certainly in the midst of a rush of interest in faith-based shows,” says Martha Williamson, creator and producer of the CBS hit “Touched By An Angel,” which ran from 1994 to 2003.

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. The revival, after all, is no spiritual awakening. Some 78 percent of Americans say they are Christian, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center's Project on Religion and Public Life, and the Bible provides the sort of epic storytelling that Hollywood is thirsting for, making a religious comeback, if anything, overdue.

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