Passion Surpasses Box Office Expectations

( [email protected] ) Feb 27, 2004 09:46 AM EST

Among all premiere days on Wednesdays, “The Passion of the Christ” nabbed the No.3 spot, reaping $26,556,573 in ticket sales.

With a last-minute addition of theaters to play the movie just weeks before its premiere, the total count of screens that played the movie by Wednesday was nearly 5,000. Around 3,000 theaters played the movie, some even selling out full auditoriums which were reserved for viewings by churches and church-based groups.

Even when compared to the list of all major blockbusters that made chart history on debut days, “The Passion” still finishes in the top 10, claiming No.9. Only few movies such as “The Return of the King” ($34.5 million) and “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” ($28.5 million) took in bigger numbers on opening days. But to much of analysts surprise, who at first thought the movie would be lucky to find a distributor for the film, “The Passion” of the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life took lead ahead of other box office greats such as “The Two Towers” ($26.2 million) and “The Matrix Revolutions” ($24.3 million). Production of the movie costed only $30 million, a low-budget compared to other Hollywood movies.

According to Bob Berney, president of privately owned Newmarket Film, the movie’s success is a "phenomenon".

Of the $26.3 million “The Passion” claimed, $3 million were actually tickets purchased to the pre-screenings of the movie on Monday and Tuesday, according to Newmarket. Aside from those figures, the movie would technically make $23.6 million on opening day Wednesday. Many advanced tickets sales also played a part in raising high numbers for the opening night and over $10 million were sold through such online ticket retailers as Fandango.

Some are saying subject matter presented in the movie is the honey for viewers.

Exhibitor Relations president Paul Dergarabedian said. "There's a movie here that speaks to a major event in Christianity, and you've got this huge response to it. There is a built-in audience for this movie, and they certainly have come out in droves."

In comparison, Christian-based children’s movie, “Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie”, grossed $25.6 million in its entire run.

Analysts are withholding any firm projections of the movie’s revenue by next week. They say the film will likely surpass all pre-release opening weekend expectations, which ranged anywhere from $25 million - $50 million.