When it sets sail in the coming film "Noah," a massive 148-foot wooden ark will carry not only a slew of zoo animals, but one of Hollywood's biggest wagers in years.
"Noah," a $125 million epic from Viacom's Paramount Pictures, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky, is one of a boatload of religious films in the works from major movie studios.
There are compelling economic reasons for Hollywood to embrace the Good Book. The studios are increasingly reliant on source material with a built-in audience, something the Bible—the best-selling book in history—certainly has. And like the comic-book superheroes that movie companies have relied on for the past decade, biblical stories are easily recognizable to both domestic and the all-important foreign audiences. What's more, they're free: Studios don't need to pay expensive licensing fees to adapt stories and characters already in the public domain. ...
Walt Disney's Marvel Entertainment, for instance, licenses its Spider-Man property to Sony and its X-Men to Fox. Marvel receives a percentage of the film's gross, estimated by analysts to be as high as 5%. Licensing also opens the door to legal skirmishes, such as Warner Bros.' protracted copyright battle over the rights to the Superman franchise.
--Erica Orden, WSJ, on what Hollywood can believe in