Sometimes controversy is a very good thing. Thanks to months of heated debate over its alleged anti-Semitism and ultra-violent scenes, Mel Gibson's long awaited film ''The Passion of the Christ'' grossed an estimated $20 million on its opening day Wednesday. Fueled by that fantastic number, it should have an even more impressive opening weekend.
Obviously, audience interest is through the roof for this film, as church groups are flocking to theaters. ''The Passion'' should gross $40 million this weekend, and $70 million over its first five days.
With ''The Passion of the Christ'' not exactly the date movie of the year, second place should go to Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore's ''50 First Dates,'' which occupied the top spot for the last two weeks. A 45 percent drop to $11 million seems likely.
Meanwhile, Ashley Judd is back with another Ashley-Judd-in-trouble movie, ''Twisted,'' in which she plays a cop investigating the murders of her ex-boyfriends. The film seems to be lacking in buzz, but thriller fans should come out to the tune of $10 million. Also opening this weekend is ''Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,'' which should manage a $7 million debut.
''Confessions of a Drama Queen'' will likely round out the top five, slipping 40 percent to about $6 million, squeezing the new comedy ''Broken Lizard's Club Dread'' out of the top five. The quirky film, starring Bill Paxton, should debut with about $4 million.