- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

There is little passion this Easter for an edited re-release in theaters of Mel Gibson’s movie about Jesus Christ, only a year after the graphic film provoked a national debate and scored big at the box office.

“The Passion Recut,” with six of the most violent minutes from the original “The Passion of the Christ” excised, has tanked at the box office and drawn none of the attention from evangelical churches it did a year ago.

“We really felt we needed to do something last time. Since we’ve already done that in a big way, we put a big emphasis on it, and we didn’t think we needed to do that again,” said Bill Steele, director of finance and administration at the McLean Bible Church, a congregation with more than 8,000 members in Fairfax County.

“Not that it’s not important,” he said.

Last year, McLean Bible reserved several theaters for two consecutive nights of prerelease showings. Pastors gave short talks to packed theaters about the Gospel after the screenings.

Churches across the Washington area and the country, most of them evangelical, hosted similar events.

Mr. Steele said the pastors at McLean Bible discussed doing something related to the movie’s re-release this year, but decided not to.

“The Passion Recut,” which opened March 11, has taken a nose dive at the box office after its opening weekend. It opened in less than 1,000 theaters nationwide and grossed $223,789 during the opening weekend, according to the Web site www.boxofficemojo.com. As of March 20, “The Passion Recut” has grossed $382,406, the Web site said.

The original “The Passion of the Christ” officially opened Feb. 25, 2004, in more than 3,000 theaters and grossed an estimated $83.8 million during its opening weekend, according to the site.

Since then, “The Passion of the Christ” has grossed an estimated $370 million domestically, becoming the ninth highest grossing film of all time. The movie reportedly earned millions more overseas and in DVD and video sales and rentals.

“Recut” is playing on about 250 screens nationwide, said Blaise Noto, a spokesman for Mr. Gibson’s company Icon Productions Inc..

Locally, at least three theaters — AMC Columbia 14 and AMC Rivertowne 12 in Maryland and AMC Potomac Mills 18 in Virginia — featured “The Passion Recut” this past week, newspaper movie listings showed yesterday. All were matinee showings.

Today, on Good Friday, several other theater chains such as the Multiplex Cinemas in Northern Virginia will feature the movie with matinee showings, the listings showed.

“The Passion of the Christ” depicts the torture and crucifixion of Jesus during the last 12 hours of his life. The movie was criticized for its graphic violence and was labeled by some critics as anti-Semitic because it included Scriptural references to Jewish culpability in Jesus’ death.

“The Passion Recut” has failed to generate enthusiasm for several reasons, pastors said.

“It seems like it’s getting so little evangelical attention because the difference is so slight,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., an ordained minister and radio host who is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Mr. Mohler also said Christians saw the movie as a gesture of support for the Scripture and thought critics last year assaulted the truthfulness of the Bible by attacking the movie.

Rabbi Jack Moline, of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, said he thinks the concerns about anti-Semitism were unfounded.

“It stirred conversation between Jews and people who take Christianity very seriously,” he said. “I think it’s a very positive outcome.”

Mr. Moline also said few will want to see such a brutal movie a second or a third time.

Those who want to see the movie again most likely have bought or will buy or rent it on DVD, Mr. Mohler said. “My hunch is that the DVD phenomenon is a lot of what’s behind this.”

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