Analysts thought Mel Gibson would be lucky to find enough venues for The Passion of the Christ. Now, what was thought as a loss of Gibson’s $25 million from his own pocket is predicted by analysts to take in $15 million to $25 million in the its first week.
The film, which opens on Feb. 25, owes much of its support from the churches. A trend of advanced purchases of the film in huge ticket bundles has been growing. The Grass-roots marketing campaign to promote the film has been working. Bundles of hundreds and thousands of tickets have already been sold for AMC Theaters and theaters from the Regal chain, mostly to churches, some to individuals who really believe in the impact the film will have.
"It's important for everyone in America to see this movie and know this story," says Arch Bonnema , a fifty-year old financial planner in Texas who spent $42,000 of his own money to buy 6,000 tickets for members of Prestonwood Baptist Church. Bonnema went the extra mile to rent a local theater in Plano, Texas, to secure all of the theater’s 20 screens for the showing of the film on opening day.
Some eager movie-goers may not have the financial resources to buy tickets for an entire parish but have found ways to get tickets. Fandango., an online ticket retailer that allows people to purchase movie tickets in advance, has reported that 43% of its sales last week were advanced purchases for The Passion.
Many believers are doing their part in spreading the word about the film. Pastors, who have and previewed the film, are encouraging parishioners to go see it while webmasters of Christian websites make sure to include the film’s promotional banner on the sites. NASCAR is also joining the evangelical effort. Norm Millar, Chairman of Interstate Batteries, told NASCAR to take off his company’s logo on hood of driver Bobby Labonte’s No. 18 Chevrolet and put an ad for The Passion instead. Thousands will see the car as it runs in the Daytona 500 race on Sunday.
"I wouldn't be surprised if it made $25 million in just a few days," Millar says.
Despite rising promotion of the film, some religious groups fear the film to send an anti-Semitic message, implying that the Jews killed Jesus. One thing is for sure; this film will splash some waves.
"Whether you are in favor of it or opposed, people are talking about this movie at the water coolers," says Gitesh Pandya of boxofficeguru.com. "That's a key ingredient to a movie opening big."