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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 09:21 GMT
Passion film surpasses $200m mark
The Passion of the Christ
The film's trailer has been screened in churches in the US
Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ has sailed past the $200m (108m) mark at the North American box office after two weeks.

It remains at number one and is just short of the returns enjoyed by Oscar-winning epic The Return of the King at the same stage in its box office run.

Word-of-mouth and return visits are sustaining The Passion's success, its US and Canada distributors have said.

Starsky and Hutch starring Ben Stiller opened in second place at the weekend.

And The Return of the King and Monster both bounced back into the top 10 after their success at the Oscars last week.

US AND CANADA BOX OFFICE
The Passion of the Christ
1. The Passion of the Christ (above) - $51.4m
2. Starsky and Hutch - $29m
3. Hidalgo - $19.6m
4. 50 First Dates - $7.7m
5. Twisted - $5m
Source: Exhibitor Relations for 5-7 March
The Passion of the Christ earned $51.4m (27.8m) in the US and Canada between Friday and Sunday, according to studio estimates - taking its total to $212m (115m).

It took 12 days to reach the $200m mark - the same as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

The record is held by Spider-Man, which raced to $200m in nine days.

Bob Berney, president of The Passion's distributor Newmarket Films, said: "I think this is an event or phenomenon, and people are checking it out across the board."

HAVE YOUR SAY
Definitely the best movie I've ever seen
Millie Schmitt, Memphis, TN, USA

The film's release has been surrounded by strong arguments over its portrayal of the final hours of Jesus' life.

Some Jewish groups have complained that it could encourage anti-Semitism, while it has been hailed by Christians and many churches have taken their whole congregations to see it.

The Passion of the Christ DVDs on sale in Mexico
The Passion DVDs are on sale for 30 pesos (US$2.75) in Mexico
It was directed, co-produced, co-written and financed by Mel Gibson - and will become his most successful film when it passes the $228m total set by his extraterrestrial thriller Signs.

Meanwhile, Gibson has sued a dubbing company where video copies of The Passion were found.

Gibson's film company, Icon, filed the lawsuit against Lightning Media in US District Court in Los Angeles. It is seeking damages for lost sales because of piracy.

"Damages could be in the millions if it turns out this thing is on the streets as a result of what these people did," Icon lawyer George Hedges said.

Last month, three employees of the company were charged with conspiring to violate federal copyright laws after allegedly making copies of the film for friends.


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