"The Passion of the Christ" riveted audiences 10 years ago.
Whatever their faith, few viewers were left unaffected by the sheer power of its imagery. Mel Gibson's Oscar-nominated depiction of the agony of Jesus Christ in His final hours is part of film history, including its rank as the highest grossing independent film ever.
Now, 10 years later, "The Passion" returns this week in its premiere television broadcast on Palm Sunday, April 13, at 9 p.m. ET on UP TV.
"UP is proud to present this powerful, groundbreaking cinematic portrayal of Christ's death and resurrection as the centerpiece of our extensive Easter programming," said Charley Humbard, president and CEO of UP. "'The Passion of the Christ' is a story of unconditional love: the love of a mother for her son and the love of a son for his heavenly Father – and for all mankind. This film depicts the story that is at the very heart of Christianity. It truly epitomizes our holiday theme: 'Easter Lives Here.'"
A decade ago, "The Passion" stunned audiences, shocked them with the raw emotion they felt as they exited theaters. Humbard is aware that those who were too young to see the movie then will view "The Passion" for the first time Sunday night as adults.
Humbard, a veteran of the Discovery Channel, saw the need for uplifting television programs with positive messages as a counterpoint to the toxic programming that dominates the market. He launched UP TV in 2004. The network looks for content that stands "at the intersection of faith, culture and the biblical worldview." UP TV also develops original material, "movies that communicate faith and moral values [that] offer our viewers entertainment choices."
Hollywood has also noted that formula. Not a few critics have observed the "flood" of biblical movies in 2014, including the apocalyptic "Noah," starring Russell Crowe, and "Son of God," produced by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey. Later this year, Ridley Scott's "Exodus," starring Christian Bale, promises to be a version of Moses not found in Sunday school.
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" gave audiences the grizzly reality of ancient crucifixion. But today's "all too human" biblical figures have sparked debate, particularly among devout Christians.
While critics and investors may debate commercial wisdom of these darker portrayals of biblical patriarchs and events, UP TV believes has found its own formula for critical and commercial success.
"It is a minefield to get a movie made," said Humbard, suggesting what makes the effort a success is an emphasis on family values with a faith element.
"People are seeking movies that reflect their values, their beliefs," he said.
One such movie is UP's own production of "Apple Mortgage Cake," a movie worthy of the network's goal, "Uplift someone."
Advertisers have discovered the formula as well. Family friendly fare offers advertisers a portal into the large traditional consumer base. Humbard reports that his network draws the ads of top companies.
"The Passion of the Christ" airs April 13 at 9 p.m. ET with limited commercial interruption.