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The Passion of The Christ breaks the US five-day record



Story by: Jack Foley

MEL Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is well on its way to becoming a Box Office and cultural phenomenon, shattering records almost every day, and raising interest levels in religion in all areas of entertainment.

Not content with a healthy opening day, or staggeringly successful opening weekend, the film has now broken the US five-day Box Office record, held by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, raking in $125.2m (£68.2m) in its first five days, compared with the Rings’ earlier record of $124.1m.

The Passion has also become sixth in the all-time list of films' first weekend takings, according to industry publication, Screen Daily.

The news has been welcomed by Bruce Davey, Gibson's partner at Icon, who predicted further good times ahead. He predicted ‘strong bookings leading up to Easter’, and anticipates Easter being ‘a huge weekend’.

The film has further been credited with boosting sales of religious books in outlets across America, with interest in all things religious (and controversial) renewed.

A book which accompanies the film sold out of all 150,000 copies almost instantly, while the book Gibson used for the movie, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, has also seen a sales jump, from 3,000, for the whole of 2002, to 17,000, in February alone.

Another best-seller, at the moment, is The Passion of Jesus Christ, by Baptist minister, John Piper, which, while not related to the film, has 1.6 million copies in print to cater for demand, after an initial print run of 175,000 in January.

Global Box Office success

The film is not released in the UK until March 26, but tickets have been selling equally as quickly in other countries where it has.

In Australia, for instance, the film took A$3.6m (US$2.7m) in its first five days, while New Zealand recorded figures of NZ$410,000 (US$275,000) in its first four days, according to Screen Daily.

In Italy, meanwhile, the number of screens it is to open on has been tripled, from 150 prints, to more than 500.

The number being handled by distributor, Eagle Pictures, is more usually associated with Christmas blockbusters, according to Screen Daily.

Eagle spokesman, Saverio Fearragina, commented: "We already had huge requests for the film from exhibitors even before the hype surrounding the Passion's US release."

The Vatican has yet to make an official comment ahead of the film's release on April 7, but, speaking in a personal capacity, several cardinals and archbishops have praised it.

However, in Germany, Catholic leaders have described it as 'problematic', warning that they 'it could be used to stir anti-Semitism'.

"We urgently warn against using the suffering of Jesus as an instrument for anti-Semitism," the German Bishops' Conference said in a statement.

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