'Ben-Hur' Remake Sets 2016 Opening; 'Bible' Producers Board

Paramount/MGM's Ben-Hur remake has picked up a couple of new producers on its way to the cinema. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, executive producers of History's successful The Bible miniseries and its subsequent feature Son of God, have just climbed aboard the chariot.

Timur Bekmambetov is directing, from a script by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. Could this be the rare faith-based film that manages to appeal to appeal to both religious audiences and secular ones? Get all the latest details on the movie, including the new release date, after the jump.

Technically, this new Ben-Hur isn't a remake of the 1959 movie starring Charlton Heston. It can't be, legally speaking, because MGM doesn't own the rights to the movie. Instead, it's a new adaptation of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ. That novel is in the public domain, so the studios don't have to worry about any rights issues there.

Clarke's script (which was later revised by Ridley) is said to be "much different" from the Heston film in that it's "more faithful" to the novel. Instead of focusing on the feud between Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur and Roman officer Messala, it'll emphasize the early friendship between them, before Messala betrayed Ben-Hur. Think of it as a prequel, if you like.

Paramount recently had a rough time promoting the Biblically based Noah, when Christian audiences complained it wasn't "literal" enough. Adding Burnett and Downey, who have a good track record with religious projects, should help Ben-Hur go down a bit easier among the faithful.

Unlike their Son of God or the more recent Heaven Is for Real, though, Ben-Hur also has the kind of pedigree that could attract lots of moviegoers with no interest in Christianity whatsoever. Provided, that is, that they're not film buffs who consider the very idea of a Ben-Hur remake to be utter blasphemy.

The new Ben-Hur will open February 26, 2016, by which point the Bible-based epic trend should be in full swing.