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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 10:48 GMT
Passion 'could earn Gibson 160m'
The Passion of the Christ
The film has had one of the biggest openings in US cinema history
Director Mel Gibson could personally earn more than $300m (160m) from The Passion of the Christ, according to respected US financial experts Forbes.

After five days in the US the film has taken $125.2m (67m) - and could go on to make $650m (347m) worldwide, Forbes said, citing industry experts.

The magazine's website said Gibson's company Icon had spent $30m (16m) on production and $15m (8m) on marketing.

It said he could take up to half of the gross, plus a cut of merchandising.

The Passion of the Christ
The film has been screened in churches in the US

Forbes said Gibson would receive a portion of the sales of Passion merchandise such as mugs and nail pendants. It said the Christian retail market was worth an estimated $4.2bn (2.25bn).

Motive Entertainment president Paul Lauer, who led the marketing of the film, said he had teamed up with Christian retailing veterans, Forbes reported.

It said the movie could sell another eight million copies on DVD and video on its release in summer - earning Gibson $75m (40m).

'Graphic violence'

Gibson had been on Forbes' prestigious Celebrity 100 list in 2001 and 2002, but fell off last year. The company said he would be certain to return this year.

His film, which critics have accused of being anti-Semitic and graphically violent, follows the last 12 hours of Christ's life. Gibson has denied anti-Semitism.

Director Steven Spielberg, who is Jewish, refused to comment on the suggestions.

"I think it's much too important, and I'm really too smart to answer a question like that," he said.

He said he had not yet seen the film. "When I do see the film, the first person who will hear from me will be Mel Gibson."

In the US it had the third-best five-day opening of any film, beating blockbusters such as The Return of the King and Finding Nemo.

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