First Jesus Christ rises from the dead in ''The Passion of the Christ,'' and now ''Dawn of the Dead''? Do I sense a trend here? For the first time since its release four weeks ago, ''The Passion'' is in danger of relinquishing the No. 1 box office position to a newcomer. It could be a close one.
''Dawn of the Dead'' may have the edge, since its core fan base of young males will rush out to see the horror remake (starring Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley) in the opening weekend. Last October, the update of ''Texas Chainsaw Massacre'' premiered with $28.1 million. ''Dead'' should liven things up with a $22 million debut.
But close behind will be ''The Passion,'' which is now almost up to the $275 million mark in domestic receipts. A 40 percent slide to $19 million will push it past ''The Matrix Reloaded'' as the top-grossing R-rated film ever. Another new release this weekend is the thriller ''Taking Lives,'' starring Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, and Kiefer Sutherland. A more adult draw, it should see a debut of about $12 million.
Rounding out the top five will be Johnny Depp's ''Secret Window,'' which will slip 45 percent to $10 million, and possibly the other new entry of the weekend, ''Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,'' which stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet and has received glowing reviews. Though it's opening in less than half the theaters of ''Dawn of the Dead'' or ''Taking Lives,'' it could still manage a $10 million debut, pushing ''Starsky & Hutch,'' which could gross another $9 million, back to sixth place. But don't give up on them, baby.