Story by: Jack Foley
MEL Gibson's The Passion of
the Christ has now broken box office records in Italy, beating
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in terms of first-day
Gibson's controversial religious epic took 1.22m euros (£804,000)
on its first day, comfortably beating the previous record set
by Peter Jackson's Oscar-winner, which took 1.11m euros (£732,000)
in a day.
The film, ironically, is now on general release in Italy, without
any age restrictions. It has been classified 18, or its equivalent,
in most countries.
It opened on 700 screens across Italy, including several in the
southern town of Matera, where much of the filming took place.
In the majority of complexes, tickets sold out within hours of
going on sale.
The success of the film, in Italy, has been fuelled by the controversy
surrounding it, and the fact that Vatican officials have, in the
main, praised its depiction of the final 12 hours in the life
of Jesus Christ.
And it will help it become one of the most popular films of all
times - where it is still on course to beat the current holder
of that title, Titanic.
In the UK, The Passion has taken over £5.5m since its release
on March 26, and it has also been a big hit in other countries,
including Germany and The Middle East.
Only France has been unkind, with the majority of critics slating
it - and one even going so far as to call it boring.
Its biggest market remains in the US, however, where it has made
over $330m (£180m) to date.