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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 10:42 GMT
Zombie film 'will beat Passion'
Dawn of the Dead
Sarah Polley tries to escape from zombies in Dawn of the Dead
A remake of cult hit Dawn of the Dead is tipped to take The Passion of the Christ's top US box office spot in a cinematic battle of good versus evil.

Mel Gibson's religious film has earned more than $273m (149m) while topping the US chart for three weeks.

But industry journal Hollywood Reporter predicts a 40% decline in Passion audiences, which would enable Dawn of the Dead to debut at number one.

The remake of the 1978 zombie classic is directed by newcomer Zack Snyder.

It reprises George Romero's original in which a handful of embattled survivors were trapped in a shopping mall surrounded by hungry zombies.

Dawn of the Dead follows last year's remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which topped the US chart to take $28m (15m) in its opening weekend.

Mel Gibson caught lightning in a bottle - can you duplicate that?
Tom Sherak, Revolution Studios
Meanwhile the Passion film has been a huge success in the US, topping the box office there since its release in earlie this month.

Industry experts feel that, despite rekindling Hollywood's interest in the Bible, Gibson's film is not expected to inspire another religious blockbuster.

Producer Tom Sherak, a partner with former Disney studio chairman Joe Roth at Revolution Studios, said it would be extremely difficult for anyone to match Mel Gibson's success.

"He caught lightning in a bottle," Mr Sherak said.

"Can you duplicate that? It's tough. It's really tough. I don't see it as a trend."

Other films have been tailored for religious audiences, such as 1999's The Third Miracle starring Ed Harris, but few have crossed over into mainstream hits like The Passion.

"The history of the box office of Hollywood is studded with one-shot success stories," said Leonard Maltin, chief film critic for US showbiz news TV show Entertainment Tonight.

The Passion of the Christ opens in UK cinemas on 26 March.


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