AP Music Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's "The Bible" franchise continues to grow in unexpected ways. Up next? A 16-city music tour featuring some of today's most popular Christian acts.
The tour begins next March following the nationwide theatrical release of "The Bible" companion film "Son of God," and will feature music inspired by and visual components from the movie and miniseries.
"I think that music just has such a wonderful ability to connect and open your heart and the images from our film certainly are going to touch your heart," Downey said. "So I think it's just going to be a really beautiful, heartfelt experience all around for people to attend."
Attend they will, if previous reaction to "The Bible" continues to hold true.
The five-part History miniseries was one of the surprise hits of 2013, averaging 11 million viewers for each episode last spring in the U.S. Burnett and Downey have been rolling it out overseas as well -- it's playing in Hong Kong now and the United Kingdom is up next.
"It has continued to ripple -- splash really -- around the world," Downey said as the couple spoke publicly about the music tour for the first time Thursday by conference call. Burnett, producer of "The Voice," ''Survivor" and other reality shows, was in Cleveland, Ohio, and actress Downey was in Boston. Both were screening "Son of God" for local religious and business leaders, looking to get support for the film before it opens Feb. 28. They plan to hit several more cities, and trailers for the movie will begin running in theaters next week.
The film comprises previously aired material from "The Bible" intercut with new scenes shot concurrently with the miniseries in Morocco in 2012.
The couple said they heard a calling from God to make the miniseries, and the franchise continues to take more and more of their lives. That's something their friend, Pastor Rick Warren, warned them about.
"Rick Warren said to me and Roma, 'You know one of the most dangerous prayers that you can pray is, 'Use me,' because he will,'" Burnett said.
"And we can see how that played out in our lives," Downey said. "We've been working for God ever since."
The music tour will open March 20 at Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and will conclude April 13 in Baltimore. Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets, Natalie Grant, Chris August, Meredith Andrews and Jason Gray will perform. Most of the concerts will be held at super churches and will include scenes from "The Bible" and "Son of God" mingled with photos of religious art and artifacts along with the music.
"This has been a labor of love for us," Downey said. "We didn't need a job when we took this on. ... It's a combination of everything we love, everything we believe -- and we get to do it together."
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