Detail from a poster for the film "Heaven Is for Real." Photo: Sony Pictures/Unimedia Images/Sony Pictures/Newscom

Detail from a poster for the film “Heaven Is for Real.” Photo: Sony Pictures/Unimedia Images/Newscom

“Heaven Is for Real” rose to the nation’s No. 3 movie over Easter weekend, adding to the success this year of films with religious themes in competing with standard Hollywood blockbusters.

“Son of God,” “God’s Not Dead,” “Noah,” and now “Heaven Is for Real” all had exceptional debuts that placed them in the top five movies of their respective opening weekends.

“Easter weekend provided further evidence that 2014 is indeed the year of the Bible movies,” Hollywood Reporter concluded.

But why the onset of so many news-making films about faith in the Hollywood playground?

Bishop T.D. Jakes, a popular preacher and author whose latest film project as a producer is “Heaven Is for Real,” put it this way in an interview with Hollywood Reporter: “Film is a vehicle to communicate to a broader audience something important, and to use it to say nothing is an injustice.”

Many predicted a flood of Hollywood movies with biblical themes 10 Easters ago, though, when director Mel Gibson shattered records and preconceptions with his R-rated “The Passion of the Christ,” which grossed more than $600 million in its initial 2004 release. That wave didn’t really materialize.

Now, though, film producer Mark Joseph tells that Hollywood hopes to attract Americans “who have been disengaged from movies and are now willing to give Hollywood a chance.” Joseph adds:

There’s a new generation of Hollywood executives coming up who aren’t as ideological and political as their older counterparts. They’re about the bottom line and aren’t as knee-jerk against religious material as previous generations.”

Heaven Is for Real,” which boasts popular actor Greg Kinnear, came in No. 3 at the box office over Easter weekend, grossing $22.5 million, for a total domestic take so far of $29.6 million.

The controversial “Noah” starring Russell Crowe sailed into the No. 1 spot on its opening weekend March 28, grossing a whopping $43.7 million.  Its domestic gross so far totals $93.3 million.

God’s Not Dead” took the No.  4 spot among all movies premiering March 21, though it opened in fewer than 800 theaters. The Christian drama grossed $9.2 million opening weekend and has collected $48.2 million domestically.

Not to be forgotten, “Son of God” came in No. 2 at the box office the weekend of Feb. 28 for a $25.6 million opening.  With a storyline about Jesus Christ repurposed from “The Bible” TV series on the History Channel, the movie’s domestic gross totals $59.4 million.

The year of faith-based films will continue with “Persecuted,” out in July; a remake of “Left Behind” starring Nicolas Cage opening in October; and “Exodus: God and Kings,” another movie based on Old Testament history set to premiere in December.

In a variation on the trend, the Christian organization Focus on the Family plans a one-night showing May 6 of its pro-family film “Irreplaceable” in theaters across the country.

Ken McIntyre contributed to this story, which  was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.