Gary Susman
March 02, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

At the box office these days, the only screenwriters who can rival J.R.R. Tolkien are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. With the weekend’s final numbers in, Mel Gibson’s ”The Passion of the Christ” is an even bigger smash than distributor Newmarket had estimated. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the final Friday-to-Sunday tally is a whopping $83.8 million, well above the already impressive $76.2 million estimate. That gives the film a five-day opening figure of $122.2 million, nearly surpassing the Wednesday opening record of $124.1 million set in December by ”The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” Add the $3 million in pre-sold tickets to advance screenings last Monday, and the film inches past the hobbits with $125.2 million. ”Passion” can lay claim to several other records. The Jim Caviezel starrer is the biggest February opening (far outstripping the $58 million earned by ”Hannibal” in 2001), the second biggest debut ever for an R-rated film (after last year’s $91.8 million take for ”The Matrix Reloaded”) and the best debut ever for an independent film. Can’t wait to see what kind of numbers Gibson reaches with the sequel.

You May Like