MIDLOTHIAN, Texas — In the biblical account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus uses two fish and five loaves of bread to feed a large crowd. The small amount of food supernaturally multiplies to satisfy 5,000 people who have gathered to hear him speak near the Sea of Galilee.
Re-enacting that scene for television could be viewed as a miracle of its own: 9,000 extras gathered over the course of three days at a Salvation Army camp south of Dallas this summer. They were not paid actors, but devotees of the television show they were making. Many of them had traveled from across the country to stand in the Texas heat, a reward for giving up to $1,000 each to fund the show.
“The Chosen,” a surprise hit television series, is billed as the first multi-season show about the life of Jesus — and one of the biggest crowd-funded media projects ever produced. The show’s third season will begin streaming online in mid-December.
Conceived by a little-known creator, featuring no major stars and funded primarily, at first, through small contributions without the support of a Hollywood studio, the series began on an obscure proprietary app and is now given away for free. Its I.P. is 2,000 years old. But despite the long odds, the faith-based drama series has become a bona fide phenomenon in many parts of Christian culture, attracting a fervent ecumenical fandom while remaining almost invisible to others.
Globally, 108 million people have watched at least part of one episode of “The Chosen,” according to an analysis prepared at its producers’ behest by Sandy Padula, an independent consultant. The show now also streams on platforms including Peacock, Amazon Prime Video, and, as of this week, Netflix. Producers recently announced that the third season of the show would also be available on a new “The Chosen” app.
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