Even before the critics have weighed in, "Son of God" has a built-in audience. Just as Mel Gibson made the rounds at mega-churches a decade ago to market "The Passion of the Christ," Burnett and Downey have been spreading the word about "Son of God." They have enlisted support from archbishops and the pastors of mega-churches, including televangelist Joel Osteen, to make their movie a teaching tool.
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., reportedly plans to fill up the local megaplex on opening night with parishioners.
"If you didn't know Jesus and you came to this movie for the first time, I think you would get a beautiful understanding of what he came to do, of how he loved," Downey said. "We've tried to tell the movie as a thriller to create the tension and the drama to make it compelling, to keep you interested."