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March 2nd, 2004

"Passion" Play, Hail To The "King"


Looks like it was a good thing that Newmarket upped the screen and theater count for Mel Gibson's long-awaited, much-talked about and incredibly controversial The Passion Of The Christ. The film actually exceeded industry expectations by quite a few million dollars, pulling in a whopping 83.8 million over the weekend and 125.8 million since it's opening last Wednesday. I'm sure many wanted to see this movie, and I'm sure others just went to see the controversial. The film has already set a bunch of records, and I'm sure studios that passed on distributing the film are kicking themselves now (though Fox has picked up rights for the home video release). The film is bound to have plenty of repeat business and it not out of the question that the movie could gross up to 300 million, perhaps more. Mel Gibson, quite simply, is a marketing genius.

All other releases could not measure up over the weekend. The champion for the past two weeks, 50 First Dates, dropped to second with 12.5 million and should cross 100 million by next weekend. The only new release that was off to a decent start was the panned thriller Twisted with 8.9 million, while the tween comedy Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen pulled in another 6.3 million.

The pseduo-sequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights opened with a weak 5.8 million at fifth, while Miracle is starting to drop and grossed 4.4 million over the weekend. Eurotrip pulled in another 4 million, while the comedy Welcome To Mooseport is officially a dud by only raking in another 3.2 million over the weekend. Rounding out the top ten was Barbershop 2: Back In Business with 3.1 million and Broken Lizard's Club Dread had a dreadful debut of only 3 million, so expect a quick trip to DVD for that one.

So what did everyone think of the Oscars? I thought there were some funny bits and lines, and as much as I love Billy Crystal and was glad to see him back, he's done a better job over other years. It was a fairly predictable race that didn't hold many surprises - and no one has to worry about "The Lord Of The Rings" getting nominated for anything next year.

Personally, I was surprised that "The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King" won all 11 it was nominated for, letting it tie with "Titanic" and "Ben-Hur" and letting it have the distinction with "Gigi" and "The Last Emperor" as the only films to win everything it was nominated for.

While I did not mind LOTR won Best Picture (I still say "Mystic River" was the best film of 2003 in my opinion), I thought the big surprise of the evening that it won Best Adapated Screenplay. I still say "Mystic River" should have gotten that since it was such an amazing character drama, but I guess writing a screenplay and cramming Tolkein's work into a manageable piece of film was tough - and I bet the Academy was rewarding the fact that it was done three times over.

I think the Academy did get it right this time though - they waited to the very end to reward such an epic, massive trilogy that changed the world entire. So they gave the first two movies a few awards to tide it over - maybe build some anticipation for the momentous night. And at the end, they gave the last film a tidal wave of everything to mark and give justice to the trilogy's impact and ultimate culmination. I thought ROTK was the best of the three, and LOTR will continue to be a cultural phenomenon (even though the books were incredibly popular before the movies).

Other thoughts: Sean Penn was rather gracious in his speech, and I'm glad he won since he's one of the best actors of this generation and he was outstanding in "Mystic River" (Murray did look rather disappointed though that he lost). I thought the highlight of the night was the performance of "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" by Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy (all in character from their respective roles in "A Mighty Wind", no less). And for a moment, I thought the song might have won giving the enthusiastic applause when the song was called before the award was announced. Speaking of songs, the Jack Black and Will Ferrell number was quite amusing (maybe they should host the show in the future).

And that's the Oscars for you. Until next year, DVD fans...

-Zach B.