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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 22:06 GMT
'Sick bags' for Passion audiences
The Passion of the Christ
The film depicts the final 12 hours of Christ's life
A Belfast cinema has supplied audiences with sick bags for the opening night of the controversial film, The Passion of The Christ.

Warner Village Cinema in the Odyssey complex also planned to have first aid personnel on stand-by for Friday night's showing of Mel Gipson's epic.

Churches have block-booked seats at various showings to see the film which has prompted heated debate about whether it is anti-Semitic.

It portrays the final hour of Christ's life, and gives what some believe is a brutal depiction of his death on the cross.

Johnathan Davis from Warner Village Cinema said help was at hand for anyone who felt ill during the showings.

"We hope to have a first aid company involved to be on hand in case anybody faints," he said.

"We will have plenty of water available, soft drinks and ice cream to keep people calm and collected. We will also have sick bags."

The Passion of the Christ
The film has provoked huge controversy
Reverend Norman Brown from Ballymena in County Antrim, who has already seen the film, said it was certainly not entertainment.

"It's a tough film to watch, it's very intense," he said. "It's a bridge we would hope for the non-churched as well an an encouragement to those who are followers of Jesus."

Fellow Ballymena clergyman Father Paul Symonds said he would recommend people to go and see the film.

"It really brings home the reality of the crucifixion, which was not a pleasant event and was a very, violent event," he said.

The film has divided the censors as it has an 18 certificate in Northern Ireland and a 15 rating in the Republic of Ireland.

Some members of a Christian Fellowship group from Lurgan, County Armagh, saw it last week in Dundalk, County Louth.

'Huge sacrifice'

One said: "I can understand why it is 18 because of the violence but I still think people should see it because people need to see what happened.

"I thought it was amazing. It got to the point and cleared everything - it was really good."

The film has now taken more than $264m at US cinemas - making it more successful than films like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Monsters Inc and Toy Story 2.

It is expected to repeat the box office success in the UK, that it has experienced in the US.

Nine UK churches have block-booked 3,300 seats at cinemas in Barnstaple, Devon, and Maidstone, Kent, to enable their congregation and non-church-goers to see the film.

Gibson has denied anti-Semitism, saying he has tried to stick to the story as told in the Bible and his film highlights Christ's "huge" sacrifice.

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