And the (box office) envelope, please

And this just in from Box Office Mojo. The Passion opened bigger than anyone expected, at least in comments released to the public. What this means is that the news stories linked to this movie will have legs. It is a story in the industry, a story with future implications other than Mel Gibson's future as an actor for Dreamworks.

The first hard news on the Passion box office is:

Playing on 4,643 screens at 3,006 theaters, the $30 million production took in a whopping $26,556,573 on Wednesday - ironically prompting most in the industry to use the Lord's name in vain. ...

The Passion's opening day far exceeded Newmarket's and Box Office Mojo's Wednesday projections that it would come in at around $20 million, based on matinee grosses from around 28% of theaters. That shows that projecting so early can be as inaccurate as if the news called the winner of a political primary with only a fraction of precincts reporting.

With less than 900 theaters reporting mid-Wednesday, The Passion had rung up over $7 million from matinees alone. That was about 18% behind what The Return of the King had at the same point on its opening day, and around 4% behind The Matrix Reloaded. The Passion ultimately followed a similar pattern to Return of the King.

In just one day, The Passion has become the highest-grossing Christian-themed movie of recent memory. It's a genre that's been ghettoized as a niche market up until now - former champ Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie grossed a modest $25.6 million in its entire run.

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