By Tim Briody
February 26, 2004
Call it controversy, call it curiosity, call it the once-a-year movie-goer
phenomenon. Whatever it is, The Passion of the Christ is looking to make
box office history.
According to Variety, Newmarket Films was estimating
an opening day tally of $20 million for Mel Gibson's film about the final hours of Jesus Christ.
The exact figure will be officially declared Thursday, as this estimate is based solely upon matinee business
calculated early Wednesday afternoon.
Tossing out the summer (May-August) and holiday (November-December) box
office seasons, the highest single day take is the $23.5 million earned by
Hannibal on its second day of release back in February of 2001. Hannibal
also owns the highest opening day total in that same period with $19.8
When you consider Wednesdays, it's pretty safe to assume that The Passion
of the Christ will not approach The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the
King's $34.1 million, or the $28.5 million earned by 1999's Star Wars:
Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But keeping some perspective here, we're
looking at a certified blockbuster, at least for one day.
Variety also notes there were advance showings of the film on Monday and
Tuesday, as well as midnight showings to church groups who had bought out
entire theaters. The grosses from those viewings are estimated at $3
million and will be included in the Wednesday figure.
With unprecedented amounts of mainstream media coverage regarding the
film's content, The Passion of the Christ brought out not only the
devoutly religious, but also the deeply curious. It's long been an adage
that controversy sells tickets, and The Passion of the Christ certainly
fits that statement. When the exact Ash Wednesday total is released
Thursday, BOP will continue to follow one of the most important stories of
2004 with analysis and speculation for the remainder of the weekend.