Story by: Jack Foley
THE religious debate surrounding The Passion of The Christ may
still be raging, but audiences are flocking to see Mel Gibson's
violent take on the last 12 hours of Jesus' life.
The film, which opened on Ash Wednesday, grossed more than $20
million (£10.7m) in its first day in cinemas, according
to its distributor.
Despite initially struggling to find a backer for a US release,
The Passion of the Christ was released in 3,006 cinemas in north
America, and has had people turning out in droves - intriuged
by both their own religious conviction and the controversy surrounding
The figures were presented by Bob Berney, president of privately-owned
Newmarket Films, as evidence of the relevance of the film, even
though box office tracking service, Exhibitor Relations, claimed
Newmarket's figure included $3 million in group sales for Monday
and Tuesday preview screenings.
With this in mind, the $23.6 million posted for the film's official
first day makes it the fifth-biggest Wednesday opening of all
time, according to Exhibitor Relations - the record being held
by Lord of the Rings: The Return
of the King, with $34.4 million.
It also means that Gibson's labour of love has generated nearly
as much in north American ticket sales as the $30 million the
actor personally invested in it.
Berney was quick to label the movie 'a phenomenon', telling Reuters
that the film owed its commercial success to a mix of Gibson's
popularity, the broad appeal of its religious theme and weeks
of intense media attention.
Its success will infuriate Jewish leaders even more, who have
criticised it as a film that could foment anti-Semitism, by depicting
Jews as collectively responsible for Jesus' crucifixion.
Yet Berney concluded: "It shows there is a vast, undeserved
audience for a film like this, a religious film. I think people
feel like Hollywood has not given them a film like this, and now
they've stepped up and said, 'We're here'."