Megachurch Pastors Lead 'Son of God' Campaign to 'Take Over' Multiplex Theaters Nationwide

Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Archbishop José Gomez, Craig Groeschel, Miles McPherson and Ray Johnston Among Pastors Promoting Mark Burnett/Roma Downey Feature Film

Pastors and Christian leaders throughout the U.S. are jumping on board a campaign to spread the Gospel message via the upcoming film "Son of God" by buying out multiplex cinema screens for the day before its public release on Feb. 28.

"Few movies have been able to take over an entire multiplex – every screen, every seat; only blockbusters like 'Hunger Games.' But now the religious epic 'Son of God' is taking over several multiplexes nationwide on Thursday, February 27, the day before it debuts on 3,000 screens," say the film's promoters.

As of Monday, multiplexes in at least 10 cities nationwide are playing "Son of God" on all of their screens on the evening of Feb. 27. "It's very interesting to see this level of excitement around the movie," stated James Meredith, VP, head of Marketing & Communications for Cinemark. "We've already scheduled a few large-scale theatre buyouts for 'Son of God' in theatres across the country. The interest level for meetings, events, screenings and buyouts seems to be on par with that of major blockbuster, tentpole or franchise movies."

Megachurch pastor and author, Rick Warren, is buying out screens in at least eight different theaters throughout Orange County, Calif. "I've seen most of the films about Jesus produced in the past 50 years, and 'Son of God' is the best," Warren said. "We're excited Jesus is back on the big screen, and we're going to fill the theaters. I want every other faith leader in America to do the same. Whether you can buy out a whole theater, or just one screen, now is the time to show up."

Warren, with the go-ahead from producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, created curriculum for a six-week study for small groups, called "Son of God: The Life of Jesus in You." Saddleback Church will be hosting a sermon series to go along with the study that will begin with the movie's release and end on Easter.

Crossroads Church in Cincinnati is bringing thousands of people to their local Cinemark on Feb. 27, where "Son of God" will be showing on 13 screens at the same time. "We're inviting everyone to experience this historic film about the life of Jesus," said Brian Wells from Crossroads. "Our church bought out every screen in the theater. If anyone comes to the theater to see another movie that night, they'll be out of luck, unless we have a few extra tickets to give them!"

In addition to pastors doing "theater take-overs," many others are buying out single screens at their local movie theater, promoters said. "This is a rare opportunity to bring the story of Christ into our mainstream culture," said Pastor Warren. "We want to see Jesus in movie theaters where sight and sound can open up our senses and let grace come in. The message of the Gospel deserves to be on the big screen – and this is our chance to see it there."

Relief organization Compassion International has also joined in the buy-out campaign by distributing tickets to churches in more than 40 markets. "Jesus has always been at the center of our ministry," says Mark Hanlon, Compassion International's senior vice president of global marketing and engagement. "His life story is the greatest story ever told. And this film tells it in a beautiful, captivating way. The Gospel account of Jesus' life is a central part of our program's curriculum. That's why we're working with churches throughout the country to make this film an opportunity for outreach."

While evangelical Christians typically lead the charge in supporting faith-based movies, "Son of God" is a rare movie that has garnered the support of the Catholic Church, the film's promoters said. Cardinal Donald Wuerl commissioned discussion guides and videos to be made for Catholic churches and schools, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami is doing a theater take-over for thousands of Catholics in Miami.

Additionally, other churches and organizations distributing tickets for a "Theater Take-Over" are:

  • Joel Osteen (Lakewood Church) – Houston, Texas – Distributing 8,000 tickets from an anonymous donor
  • Craig Groeschel (LifeChurch) – Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma – 18 Campuses. Weekly attendance of 60,000 and Bible application with over 100 million downloads
  • Archbishop José Gomez (Archdiocese of Los Angeles) – Over 4 million members
  • Miles McPherson (Rock Church) – San Diego, Calif. – Weekly attendance of over 10,000
  • Unpolished Entrepreneurs Group (Crossroads Church) – Cincinnati, Ohio – Weekly attendance of over 10,000
  • Jerry Falwell, Jr. (Liberty University) – Lynchburg, Va. – Over 12,000 students
  • Ray Johnston (Bayside Church) – Sacramento – Weekly attendance of over 10,000

Some pastors will also be buying out movie screens showing "Son of God" in Spanish and Korean. Likewise, many business leaders are also donating tickets to churches and nonprofits.

"We're very excited that the community is mobilizing to support Son of God," stated Burnett and Downey. "The grassroots support is so important and the faith community is amazing when it mobilizes. Our hope is that the story and message of Jesus Christ will reach tens of millions of people nationwide."

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