`The Passion' on DVD: a release of biblical proportions


May 16, 2004|By Greg Hernandez | Greg Hernandez,LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

Expect a big marketing push and huge sales. But don't expect a "director's cut," extra scenes or, God forbid, bloopers. On this DVD, that would be sacrilege.

The controversial The Passion of the Christ, which unexpectedly became this year's highest-grossing film, will make its debut on DVD and VHS on Aug. 31, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced.

The film, which focuses on the final hours of the life of Jesus Christ and was directed by Mel Gibson, has grossed nearly $370 million at the domestic box office since its Feb. 25 release. Preorders for the home version begin on June 1.

"It is sure to be one of the best-selling DVDs of all time," predicted Amy Jo Donner, executive director of the Digital Entertainment Group, an industry trade association. "The interesting thing to watch is going to be where the sales are."

Donner expects DVD sales to reflect the box office demographics that included many infrequent moviegoers who saw the film with their church.

"I think you will have people buying it in huge quantities, churchgoers, community groups and the like," Donner said. "You will also have people who felt it was a very moving experience and just want to own it, a little bit like owning a Bible."

Fox and Gibson's Icon Entertainment will be courting the church crowd again as they did during the theatrical run, when some churches rented out entire theaters. The Web site thepassionofthechrist.com notes that church and ministry organizations will be able to order DVDs and VHS copies in bulk from selected retailers and distributors.

Donner said it is impossible to predict how big a percentage of the customers will be traditional DVD collectors or renters. While the R-rated film certainly attracted a wide audience, there were some who were put off by the film's graphic violence. Some critics charged that the movie had anti-Semitic undertones, allegations that Gibson denies.

"You will have people who might not want it in their home," Donner said.

The Passion, starring Jim Caviezel, was shot in Aramaic and Latin and includes English subtitles. The DVD is being presented with a maximum bit rate, 5.1 Dolby Digital and 5.1 DTS, which Fox said offers viewers the highest quality picture and audio.

Steve Feldstein, vice president of Fox Home Entertainment, said that the Aug. 31 release will not be loaded with such traditional extras as a director's commentary, deleted scenes or documentaries. It will just be the film on a single DVD disc and will have a suggested retail price of $29.98.

"The most important thing for us and for the filmmakers is to make sure that the fans and movie collectors and consumers alike be able to see this in the most pristine form possible and available with today's technology," he said.

The Aug. 31 date will precede by three weeks the highly anticipated Sept. 21 release of the original Star Wars Trilogy.

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