Latin Americans' Passion Propels 'Christ'

Mel Gibson's rendering of "The Passion of the Christ" found a kindred audience in Latin America, where the controversial biblical narrative enjoy record-breaking bows in nine territories last weekend.

Other highlights included the strong launch of "Starsky & Hutch" in the United Kingdom and the continued holdover appeal of "Brother Bear," "Along Came Polly," and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

"Passion" brought in a heavenly $10.1 million from its initial foray into south-of-the-border countries. Complete box office figures for Europe were not available, but it's estimated that the film's total weekend take from about 21 markets came to about $15 million, with the international gross to date estimated to be about $32 million.

"Passion" earned $5 million from Mexico despite an adults-only classification (because of violence), the industry's second-biggest after "Spider-Man." Brazil's $1.8 million bow was the eighth-highest industry opening. Similar Fox and industry accomplishments were recorded in Central American countries contributed $1 million, Chile $709,000, Colombia $691,000 and Peru $496,000.

Germany, the first major European market to greet the Gibson opus, produced a solid second place bow with $2.4 million, behind "Brother Bear" with $4.7 million. "Passion" also opened in three Middle Eastern countries -- Jordan, Lebanon and Qatar -- and tallied $377,000 from 7,000 admissions, with Lebanon said to have set a new opening record for the market.

In two weeks in Ireland, "Passion" is reported to have taken in $1.1 million. The film will get a full U.K. bow this weekend. In Australia, the film has tallied $7.7 million after four weekends and currently holds second place after dominating the market for two sessions.

In addition to Germany, "Brother Bear" opened strongly in Austria, Russia and South Africa, all contributing to a robust $10.1 million weekend that raised the international total to $115.5 million.

The United Kingdom welcomed "Starsky" with a rousing $8.8 million, almost quadrupling the total of second-place "Mona Lisa Smile," which has tallied $4.7 million in two weekends. "Starsky's" first weekend in Iceland scored $54,377.

The romantic comedy "Along Came Polly," with bows in Argentina, the Netherlands and Taiwan, enjoyed an $8.8 million weekend from 19 countries, hoisting its international total to $53 million. Three weekends in the U.K. recorded $13.1 million to date.

The final chapter in the "Rings" trilogy picked up $7.5 million from 61 territories. China dropped 42% in its second weekend, grossing $6.8 million in 10 days. The Oscar winner, No. 1 in Japan for six weeks, has a local total of $71.1 million. Its international gross to date has reached $708.9 million.

Pedro Almodovar broke his own personal record for an opening weekend in Spain, with "Bad Education" earning $1.6 million. The movie is scheduled to open the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

"Something's Gotta Give" went up to $111.6 million after taking in $5 million from 50 territories.