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Box office brief: Will Christian audiences turn out for 'Heaven Is for Real'?

It’s no secret that Christian-themed films have the potential to be box office gold, but even though faith-based audiences are starved for more material, it doesn’t always pan out the way studios might hope.

While Paramount’s expensive and provocative Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah continues to climb the steep slope toward domestic profitability and Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s Son of God failed to reach Passion of the Christ heights (after seven weeks in theaters it still hasn’t even made Passion‘s opening weekend numbers), the independently released God’s Not Dead came out of nowhere and stunned the major studios with its mighty box office ascent. The $2 million film, now playing in 1,860 locations, has made nearly $41.5 million in just four weekends in theaters.

Now, TriStar Pictures is rolling out its drama Heaven Is for Real on Wednesday in 2,400 locations. Based on the best-selling book by Pastor Todd Burpo about his real-life encounter with the divine, Heaven Is for Real tells the story of his young son, who claims to have visited Heaven during a near-death experience. Greg Kinnear portrays the pastor in the adaptation, and newcomer Connor Corum plays his son Colton. Despite the heavy religious bent, analysts believe that the film will play to both faith-based and mainstream audiences and predict a $20 million five-day opening for the $12 million film. READ FULL STORY

Greg Kinnear finds faith in 'Heaven Is for Real' -- EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK

Heaven Is for Real may be a spiritual tale, but it’s not solely for people of faith.

Based on Nebraska Pastor Todd Burpo’s best-selling book, the film re-creates the true account of his young son’s insistence that he’s visited heaven. We Were Soldiers and Secretariat director Randall Wallace was tasked with bringing the tale to the big screen, which stars Greg Kinnear as Todd, Kelly Reilly as his wife Sonja, and newcomer Connor Corum as their son Colton.

“I’m amazed it got to me,” Wallace told EW of Burpo’s book. “I’ve been around churches all my life and I’ve been exposed to a lot of material that would be categorized as inspirational. Most of the stuff is anything but inspirational for me. But I found this story to have an incredible intrigue and emotional power,” he said. “It speaks to the cynic in most of us.”

EW got an exclusive first look at the film, which hits theaters on April 16, 2014.

Casting Net: Tom Cruise attached to star in 'Yukikaze'; Plus, Kate Upton is the other woman, more

• Tom Cruise is attached to star in an adaptation of Chohel Kamayashi’s Japanese sci-fi series Yukikaze. In the first book, when a porthole to another dimension opens up over Antarctica, hostile aliens (known as the JAM) start pouring through and a special combat force is created to force the JAM back through the porthole. The story revolves around Second Lieutenant Rei Fukai, who must travel solo through the passageway to gather as much information on the JAM as he can. “Yukikaze” refers to the call sign for his fighter plane, his only companion. Warner Bros. acquired the series and will distribute the film as well. Cruise is coming off of a particularly good weekend with the $61 million international opening for Oblivion and is probably even more eager for Doug Liman’s sci-fi pic All You Need is Kill to hit theaters on March 7, 2014. Cruise is also still in talks to star in an adaptation of the 60s television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. [Deadline]

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Casting Net: Chris Rock to write, direct, and star in new film; Plus Keira Knightley as Coco Chanel, more

• Chris Rock is set to direct and star in a new film that he wrote, which is described as an “edgy showbiz-themed comedy with romance.” The busy comedian is also working on a number of documentaries, including Eat, Drink, Laugh, about New York’s Comic Strip Live, and Credit Is the Devil. This will be Rock’s third directorial effort. Rock also wrote and directed I Think I Love My Wife and Head of State. [Deadline]

• We’re tempted to roll our eyes at the thought of yet another Coco Chanel film, but this one might actually be interesting. Karl Lagerfeld, the delightfully irreverent creative director of Chanel, is reportedly working on a short film starring Keira Knightley as the lady behind the famous fashion house. Knightley’s the face of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle perfume, and the short will be in celebration of the brand’s 100th anniversary. It’s a dressed up marketing campaign, but thanks to David Lynch’s short film for Dior with Marion Cotillard, we’re interested in what collaborations like these can breed. [Guardian]

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