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'Passion' still leads, 'Secret' is second

Mel Gibson's film surpasses 'Greek Wedding' for highest-grossing independent movie.

March 15, 2004|R. Kinsey Lowe | Times Staff Writer

Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" maintained a solid hold on the nation's box office in its third weekend, taking in an estimated $31.7 million, distributor Newmarket Films reported Sunday.

The Johnny Depp thriller "Secret Window" opened in second place with an estimated $19 million, and the kid-spy sequel "Agent Cody Banks: Destination London" slinked into the No. 5 spot with about $8 million, just over half the opening weekend total of $14.1 million for the original film at this time last year.

"The Passion" climbed to a total of about $264 million, surpassing "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to become the highest-grossing independently produced film.

As focus on "The Passion" shifts increasingly to its performance in foreign markets, Gibson's film will try to hold up domestically in the weeks leading to Easter Sunday, April 11. Churches are expected to encourage members to see it again, with some groups buying large blocks of tickets in advance as they did before the film's opening, according to spokespeople for Gibson's company Icon Productions and Newmarket.

"The Passion" is on track to gross between $350 million and $400 million, Rob Schwartz, head of distribution for Newmarket Films, told the Associated Press on Sunday. That would put it on par domestically with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," which took in an additional $2.05 million over the weekend to push its total to $371.2 million.

"The Passion," with an early overseas tally of between $8 million and $11 million, has drawn huge audiences in a handful of foreign territories, dominating box office in Australia, New Zealand and Poland much as it did in the U.S., and this week it expands to Latin America and additional countries in Europe. With Italy's scheduled opening April 7, by Easter weekend the film will be out in most major international territories except Japan and India, where it will premiere respectively in May and June, a spokesman for Gibson said.

Among other films that opened Friday, David Mamet's military thriller "Spartan," starring Val Kilmer, landed at No. 10 with an estimated $2 million in 834 theaters. "NASCAR: The Imax Experience" zoomed to No. 11 in 68 Imax venues for a per theater average of $22,058.

"The Passion" lifted Hollywood to its third-straight uptick in revenues after a long slump in January and February. Before "The Passion" opened, Hollywood revenue to date was running 7% behind last year's. Revenues now are 3% to 4% ahead of 2003's at this time, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Preliminary results based on studio projections.

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total (millions)

*--*

*--* The Passion of the Christ $31.7 $264.0

Secret Window $19.0 $19.0

Starsky & Hutch $16.0 $51.5

Hidalgo $11.7 $35.5

Agent Cody Banks: Destination London $8.0 $8.0

50 First Dates $5.3 $106.6

Twisted $3.1 $21.1

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen $2.4 $24.9

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King $2.0 $371.2

Spartan $2.0 $2.0

*--*

Source: Nielsen EDI, Inc.

Los Angeles Times

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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