.- Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” has become a box-office hit in Latin America, out-selling any other movie in theaters this past weekend.
In Mexico, despite the decision by the government ratings board to restrict entrance to those above 18 years of age, the film opened on 700 screens throughout the country. Weeks before the release, theater chains offered advanced sales of tickets, which resulted in the movie being shown in four theaters at once in the same complex.
Students and professors from the University of Mayab carried out a poll among the large crowds that were moved by the film. 82% said they would see it again, and 100% said they would recommend the film to family members and friends. 48% said they were spiritually moved by the movie, and 88% said “The Passion of the Christ” is a movie the entire public. Only 10% thought it was movie exclusively for Catholics. Regarding the principle goal of the movie, 82% said the director was plainly concerned with showing the capacity of Jesus to love. Regarding the main message which the movie gave them, 28% said it was gratitude for the Redemption, 24% adoration of Christ on the cross, and 22% to celebrate the Eucharist more authentically. The majority said it was a great spiritual experience.
In Chile more than 33,000 people saw the film on the first day, making it the third biggest release ever in the country. “The release was incredible because we thought the film was going to be well received, but not like this,” said Esteban Morgado of 20th Century Fox. Morgado said more than 200,000 people saw the movie during the entire opening weekend.
In Ecuador, “The Passion” also drew large crowds of all ages. “This movie makes us realize that the Passion of Christ is real,” said Archbishop Alain Paul Levaupan, Apostolic Nuncio to Ecuador. Bishop Antonio Arregui, Vice President of the country’s Bishops Conference, said this version of the Passion of Jesus “follows exactly what the Bible says happened to Him.” Local media reports also praised the movie and rejected claims of anti-Semitism. The Ecuadorian daily “El Comercio” said, “Only the paranoia of a few extremists could see this film as an attack on the Jews. Gibson follows the Bible.” The Cinemark theater chain reported 50% of the tickets for the opening weekend were purchased in advance.
In Peru, the film had the biggest four day opening for 20th Century Fox and the second biggest of all time after “Spider-Man,” which got its boost from younger audiences. According to Jorge Licetti Humphery of Warner-Fox Peru, the film is expected to be seen by as many as 600,000 people, which would make the biggest movie of all time in the country. “The reaction to the film has been extraordinary. The opening was a milestone not only for the movie industry but for the spiritual lives of thousands of Peruvians as well,” said Licetti.
In Guatemala, where the movie opened last Tuesday, theater owners said “The Passion” would be the biggest movie ever, breaking the records held by “Spider-Man,” which was seen by 250,000 people. In the 47 theaters where the film is being shown simultaneously—unprecedented in Guatemala—posters invite people, especially Christians, to see the movie “with the eyes of faith and to seek an encounter with Jesus on the way of the Cross.”
In Brazil, the movie opened last Friday on more than 512 screens throughout the country. On the opening day theaters were sold out, and church groups reserved many complexes ahead of time. After the opening, Cardinal Geraldo Majella, President of the Brazilian Bishops Conference, gave his support to the film and said it was “very faithful to the Biblical narratives.” “I don’t see the movie as anti-Semitic or as promoting anti-Semitism,” he added. “The Catholic Church firmly teaches that Christ died for sins of all humanity and not those of one single people.”
In Cuba, where there is no official distribution, low-quality versions of the film are being shown in several parishes, such as St. Rita’s, where Fr. Jose Felix Perez is pastor. Although other religious films have been shown in the past, he told the Associated Press, this film is generated a lot of interest among Catholics. “There is a lot of anticipation caused by the publicity and the controversy, but after people see it is a meditation on the realism of Christ’s suffering and death,” he said.
In Colombia, “The Passion” opened last Friday in sold-out theaters. There it is expected as well to be the biggest movie ever. Currently the film is being shown in the biggest theater chains in the country.
In Panama the film has already become one the biggest ever in the country. The pre-release alone brought in over $90,000. Officials from the Archdiocese of Panama said 4,500 tickets were sold for an exclusive screening in four theaters last Thursday.