Story by: Jack Foley
MEL Gibsons 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
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
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
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
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
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.