By Indiewire | Indiewire March 8, 2004 at 2:0AM
"Passion" Tops $200 Million and Nears "Big Fat" Record
by Eugene Hernandez
With an estimated $51 million weekend, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has topped the $200 million mark at the box office after only 12 days in release. Newmarket's Bob Berney and Icon's Bruce Davey said Sunday morning in a conference call with reporters that the film screened on about 4,800 screens this weekend in a total of 3,170 theaters. Its estimated per screen average was more than $16,000.
The estimated gross of $212,034,304 after two weekends is nearing the record independent film box office figure of $241.4 million earned by IFC Films' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" during its 51 weeks of release of from April of 2002 through April '03. The film surpassed the $140.5 million earned by Artisan's "The Blair Witch Project" during 17 weeks in 1999 and the $128 million record earned by the subtitled "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" by Sony Pictures Classics from late 2000 through the summer of 2001. Miramax's release of "Pulp Fiction" made $107.9 in 1994 and 1995.
According to Berney's weekend estimate, the film suffered only a 39% drop from its first weekend grosses. "After the first weekend -- it was so huge -- the question was, 'would there be a more normal drop (of 50 - 55%?)'." Continuing he added, "Word of mouth has propelled it to a much lower drop than you would expect -- that's the pleasant surprise, it is great to see that it continues and the reaction is good."
"We are obviously delighted," said director Mel Gibson's Icon partner Bruce Davey plainly during the Sunday call.
While the execs preferred not to predict how much the film would make before all is said and done, they agreed that the movie will no doubt pass the $300 million mark.
Berney emphasized that there is solid word of mouth for the movie, noting that the film remained strong in New York City, and was especially successful in its Los Angeles runs with Long Beach, Ontario, Norwalk, Puente Hills and Burbank among the biggest cities for the movie. He added the film is performing especially well with Latino and African-American audiences.
"The Passion of the Christ" may add some theaters for the coming weekend, Berney said Sunday, but he indicated that the theater count will not jump substantially.