According to Variety, New Line Cinema has launched development of a feature version of the story of the Virgin Mary, buying Mike Rich's

Nativity spec scriptspec script in a pre-emptive purchase.

The move by the studio comes two years after Mel GibsonMel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ -- portraying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ -- stunned Hollywood by grossing more than $600 million worldwide.

New Line hasn't yet assigned producers to the project. Studio prexyprexy Toby EmmerichToby Emmerich, Cale BoyterCale Boyter and Michael Disco are the execs overseeing Nativity.