Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired The First Phone Call From Heaven, theFirstPhoneCallFromHeaven bestselling novel by Mitch Albom that was published last November by Harper. Denise DiNovi and Alison Greenspan will produce.

The book opens on a morning in the small town of Coldwater, MI, when the phones start ringing and the voices say they are calling from heaven. While each call is greeted differently — some with love, some with religious zeal, some with fear — a grieving single father with an inquisitive and hopeful son takes it upon himself to uncover whether these callers are hoaxers, or they are really dialing long distance. Chantal Nong and Cate Adams will oversee for Warner Bros.

albomAlbom, who came up a sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press, has also written bestsellers like Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven, books with a wholesome spiritual tug to them. At a time when Paramount has been doing non-stop damage control as it opens the Biblical epic Noah this Friday trying to convince religious groups to come to the movie, and with several other Biblical epics in the offing, some studios see promise in uplifting books that ponder spiritual issues with less polarizing storytelling.

For instance, advance tracking has been enormous for the Randall Wallace-directed Sony Pictures release Heaven Is For Real, which is based on a bestselling book by a pastor who conveyed how his son survived a near-death experience and began describing his experience in heaven, including things about family members he should not have known. Similarly, Summit Entertainment made a deal for the William Paul Young novel The Shack, with John Fusco scripting and Life Of Pi‘s Gil Netter producing with Brad Cummings. That bestseller takes place in the aftermath of a devastating personal tragedy, when a man is invited to a shack and finds himself face to face with God. Based on how well all these books have sold, studios clearly sense that audiences want to believe in some higher power.

While Albom has been very successful in this category, First Phone Call From Heaven marks his first feature deal. It was brokered by CAA and The David Black Agency.