The Passion of the Christ

Mark Steyn’s movie article this week is a review of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, in honor if its 10 year anniversary.  In it, he reminds us that Mel did it all by himself, with his own money, and without a distribution deal to get it into theaters.  Mark mentions that the film’s budget was $30 million.  This made me curious about how much it made.  Being as it was 100% Mel’s, I presume that he got to keep something like half of what it brought in.  So I went to that handy-dandy web site, the Internet Movie Data Base, and found this page, detailing the Box office (it includes rentals, as well).  The movie came out in February 2004, and the totals given accumulate through March of 2005.  In America alone, over the course of that year, it brought in $371 million; rentals were $204 million.

By May of 2004, it had brought in £10 million (Britain), €20 in Italy, 117 million of whatever they use in the Philippines, and 40 million in Polish money.  The haul in Russia was 91 million rubles.  It was even raking it in, to a some what lesser degree, in the United Arab Emirates.

Wikipedia tells us that he spent $15 million  on marketing. That, plus the $30 million it cost to make the picture adds up a rounding error, compared to what it made. The theaters had to be paid to screen it, of course, as well.  But the picture made just short of a billion bucks in a year.  Here’s Mark:

The headline on the Washington Post review summed it up: “‘Passion‘ Is A Gory Take On A Gentle Teacher’s Violent End”. Somebody’s confusing their Gospel withGodspell. A few days before the “violent end”, the gentle teacher had been hurling tables around in the temple. And, even if you overlook the rough stuff, rhetorically Christ was as forceful as He was gentle.

That’s the real argument over The Passion Of The Christ. It’s not between Christians and Jews, but between believing Christians and the broader post-Christian culture….

After a few hilarious insights, he gets to my point:

Strictly as a commercial proposition, Wimp Jesus is a loser: the churches who go down that path are emptying out and dying. Those who believe in Christ the Redeemer are, comparatively, booming, and ten years ago Mel Gibson made a movie for them. If Hollywood was as savvy as it thinks it is, it would have beaten him to it. But it isn’t so it didn’t. And as most studio execs had never seen an evangelical Christian except in films where they turn out to be paedophiles or serial killers, it’s no wonder they were baffled by The Passion‘s success.

Not just its success due to its subject matter; success in the face of Hollywood actively working to not allow Mel to get the thing into theaters.

This culture, the thing that replaced Western civilization, thinks that abortion is not a horror (check out this picture from the trial of America’s #1 serial killer); it thinks that Silicon Valley geniuses must be driven out of the company they founded–and whom everybody around them loves–when it is discovered that they do not endorse the redefinition of “marriage” for the first time in human history; and it thinks that Islam, the religion that has waged war on Christianity since the day Mohammed died, is peaceful, and that we are persecuting it.  These features of this new civilization trump money every time, when the priorities are arranged.

Given the crudeness, the overwhelming materialism and love of money that suffuses this time of the world, the fact that these anti-Christian religious principles are more important than money might strike us as surprising, but we should not be surprised.  Man is a religious being, by nature.

Jesus came to Earth, and died in our place, to make it possible for us to be a part of His family, forever.  The Beatitudes, and everything that follows them in the whole Sermon on the Mount, are a roadmap, a practical guide to how we can take up and put into practice His gift to us: we can be made perfect, as the last verse of Matthew 5 tells us (the Greek word for “perfect” meaning “complete,” functioning exactly as a thing was designed to do).

Easter is about the price He paid, and also the fulfillment of His promise to give us eternal life; the Beatitudes show us the way, the gate and the very narrow path Jesus’s gift made available: all we need do is obey Him, and follow it.

Poor Mel Gibson.  He made an excellent statement, by making and marketing a picture on the subject this new civilization hates the most, and he won the highest honor this civilization recognizes (the dollars) despite all that could be done to stop him.  Yet he spent the next decade proving that he does not walk the Stairway to Heaven.

The good news is that he could start today (as can any of us).  Maybe someone should send him a copy of my book.


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