With the story leading to his birth and the story leading to his crucifixion having already reached 21st Century moviegoers on the big screen, it was only matter a time before the story following Jesus Christ's resurrection would reach the box office.
And now, Easter 2011 looks to be when Jesus' rise from the dead will be witnessed by people across America. (International release dates for "The Resurrection of the Christ," meanwhile, are still waiting in the wings.)
According to weekly entertainment-trade magazine Variety, shooting for "The Resurrection of the Christ" is set to start in July with indie filmmaker Billy McKay producing, Jonas McCord directing, and Dan Gordon penning the screenplay, which is expected to focus on the power, greed and ambition of those involved in the crucifixion – Pontius Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas and Judas.
"It's as much about the key players as it is about Jesus," McKay told Variety. "We want to bring in the 'Gladiator' dimension of the first century against the political milieu of the time."
McKay, who was one of three producers behind "Billy: The Early Years," which told the story of evangelist Billy Graham's rise to prominence, also said "Resurrection" will remain faithful to biblical and historical records.
The film is set to shoot in Israel, Morocco and Europe and will be distributed domestically through Samuel Goldwyn Films, which has been behind faith-based favorites such as "Amazing Grace" and "Fireproof" as well as upcoming movie "To Save a Life," which hits theaters this Friday.
Notably, while Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" chalked up over $611 million worldwide in 2004, "Nativity Story" only picked up $46 million after its December 2006 release.
A production budget of $20 million has so far been planned for "Resurrection" – significantly less than was reported for "Passion" ($30 million) and "Nativity Story" ($35 million).
Easter next year falls on Apr. 24.