Passion Still Beats the Code After Day 15

As reported here earlier, The Passion of The Christ, which IMDb ranks No. 10 in U.S. box office sales for all time, continues to outpace The Da Vinci Code’s U.S. box office performance in head-to-head match-ups of day-by-day sales—a trend that continues to send Hollywood this unmistakable message: “Blasphemy doesn’t pay.”

Imagine it as a horserace between Passion and Code.

Passion, at the week three, Day 15 turn had sold $228,134,000 at the U.S. box office, while Code lagged behind at $172,656,000 in U.S. ticket sales.

But consider further that the overall race described earlier was a comparison with the other films in IMDB’s all-time top 10 grossing films for the U.S., excepting “the sleeper hit E.T. … released at or around the same time of year as The Da Vinci Code.” At Day 15, the compared top 10 films’ sales, as shown in bold, were:

  1. Titanic (1997)—$601 million; released in December
  2. Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)—$461 million; released in January
  3. Shrek 2 (2004)—$436 million—Day 15: $271,516,000
  4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)—$435 million; sleeper hit
  5. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)—$431 million; Day 15: $255,758,124
  6. Spider-Man (2002)—$404 million; Day 15: $285,573,668
  7. Star Wars: Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith (2005)—$380 million; Day 15: $282,804,625
  8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)—$377 million; released in December
  9. Spider-Man 2 (2004)—$373 million; Day 15: $272,675,000
  10. The Passion of the Christ (2004)—$370 million; released in February

[Note: The above list is IMDb’s all-time top 10 grossing films are for the U.S.]

So, for all the hype and millions poured into guaranteeing a break-out success, The Da Vinci Code doesn’t come close to a genuine blockbuster let alone this weekend’s leaders—The Break-up; X-Men: The Last Stand; and Over the Hedge.

Yet, isn’t the more interesting race between Passion and Code? For the subject matter—the person of Christ—is the same and the source of whatever box office success either has had—Christ being the world’s central historical figure epitomized by the fact that history and time is broken into two parts—BC, Before Christ; and AD, Anno Domine, i.e., after Christ’s birth.

Yes, Christ is huge. So, it’s almost understandable that the producers and directors of The Da Vinci Code failed to resist the blasphemous temptation to tap into this mother lode of box office success.

Something happened, however, on the way to making movie history. They forgot the formula—the code for success, if you will—must take into account the fact that Christ is huge precisely because He is God—and man, too—perfect God and perfect man. Thus He can move people’s hearts—without so much as breaking a sweat.

Memo to Opie (i.e., that wonderful little boy Ronny Howard played on the Andy Griffith Show): When you’re dealing with God, you’d be well-advised to accurately reflect who His Son is—if you want the box office “force” to be “with you.”

But, money is not a film’s only measure of success. For, The Passion was not about making money but about art—the art of love. The real love of the real Christ, who redeemed each of us weak creatures from personal sin by suffering and dying on the Cross—thus making us children of God—not by adoption but in fact. Penetrating this reality in light of his own life was why Mel Gibson made his film. That is why The Passion’s greatest success will always be measured by hearts moved when beholding the face of love.

Finally, it should be noted, The Passion of the Christ actually moved $575 million worth of hearts in the U.S. alone—when the nearly $204 million in U.S. ticket sales through “theatrical rentals” are added in—a figure exceeded only by Titanic.