Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Passionate Numbers

I haven't seem The Passion of the Christ yet, but reports of its financial and audience successes just seem to keep getting stronger:

Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" keeps on defying conventions. The film's boffo preliminary weekend estimates were revised upwards Monday when final numbers came in. The Friday-to-Sunday haul came in at a stunning $83.8 million, bringing total sales to a massive $125.2 million since its Wednesday opening. (The number includes $3 million from private previews the prior two days.) Early estimates on Sunday put the weekend at $76.2 million and the total at $117.5 million. ... When the final grosses were in, Friday's was $22.9 million, Saturday's was $33.1 million, and Sunday's was $27.9 million -- 22% higher than Friday and down just 16% from Saturday. For a film to sustain such a small drop from Saturday to Sunday, and likewise make that big of a leap from Friday's gross, is unheard of at the box office in this day and age. ... The weekend debut of the Icon Prods. film is by far the biggest opening in history outside of the near-summer and year-end holiday periods; it's the ninth-highest grossing weekend of all time; the biggest opening in February ... it's the second-biggest debut for an R-rated film ... and it's the largest debut ever for an independent film. "Passion" holds the crown for the second-highest-grossing first five days for a film opening on a Wednesday. ... [I]f exit polls are any indication, the picture should hold up very well in the weeks ahead.

That's all very curious, especially since the film received mixed but mostly negative reviews. Many of the reviews are, in my opinion, distinctly strange. Who knew that so many movie reviewers were also religious theorists with pointy opinions of what must go into a Biblical epic to make it appropriately well balanced? And who could have imagined that images of harm done to one man would generally offend as "too sadistic" or "too gory" the very same group of movie critics who generally just loved Black Hawk Down - an extended exercise in hideously realistic violence visited on a group of American servicemen? (Sample: "Black Hawk Down is a lean, mean war movie will astonish you with its stark realism and exhaust you with its intensity.") Beyond that (as Herr Doktorprofessor says) who could have known that the critics would be so utterly out of touch with the viewing public when the critics served up a 54% "Rotten" rating for Mr. Gibson's opus: According to, a sensational 99% of respondents gave "Passion" a positive grade. Yes, Passion seems to be a critic-proof movie, an honor it shares with virtually any Adam Sandler effort. And despite all the violence and gore, it's a chick-flick! The audience skewed slightly female at 52%. Well, the world is indeed a strange and wonderful place.

And while the Passion is overturning much conventional Hollywood wisdom (there is no wisdom more conventional than conventional Hollywood wisdom), one thing is certain from these blow-out numbers:


Industry sources speculated that midweek business for "Passion" would probably be cut in half or more from the weekend totals, and that next weekend's box office should hold up very well, slipping perhaps 30% or so. Most blockbusters lose about 50% in their second weekend.

But, you know, this blockbuster may be just a little bit different on its second weekend, too. A 99% positive grade is, shall we say, unusually strong word-of-mouth.

Best line I've heard: "If you didn't like the movie, you probably didn't like the book."

Comments: Post a Comment