Preparations and Popularity Increase as Movie Premiere Gets Closer

FEBRUARY 16, 2004 -- Posted at: 11:00pm

JONESBORO, AR - Group tickets for "The Passion of the Christ" went on sale to churches about three weeks ago in Jonesboro.

As the days until the movie's premiere decrease... the film's popularity continues to increase. At least 30 of the calls box office workers answer lately at Malco Cinema Theaters have to do with Mel Gibson's movie.

"What kind of discounts?," Jimmie Harvey, an employee at Malco, said of the phone calls. "How many seats do you have left for 'The Passion?'"

Four to 5,000 tickets have been sold so far; for a film that doesn't premiere for more than a week.

Steve Clark, theater manager, added, "We've had a huge response from the churches. We've sold out I think it's either 8 or 9 show times already."

This movie was made mostly using Mel Gibson's money; independent of Hollywood's production heavyweights. The film's pre-premiere popularity without a big name behind it does not surprise Clark.

"Ever since Mel Gibson started putting it together, there's just a lot about it that everyone wants to see," explained Clark.

One thing you won't see at least in Malco Theaters is the movie's poster. Some feel its' pictures are too graphic for children. While "The Passion of the Christ" is creating controversy in some areas of the country, Steve Clark doesn't anticipate any problems at the premiere here.

"The word that I'm hearing more from anybody else is gonna be enlightening," said Clark.

"Passion" will open Ash Wednesday, February 25th, and will be shown multiple times throughout the day on two screens. The first viewing will be at 3:30pm.

Steve Clark added, "I just think it will be interesting to see what happens once it gets here."

Steve Clark guesses about 1,000 people will make a pilgrimage to the "Passion" premiere next Wednesday. As of Monday afternoon, there are still tickets available for most of the showings that day. If you do buy tickets in advance, you have to pick the exact day and time you want to see the film. You can't just buy a pass to get in at any time.