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‘Passion' Hits Video Aug. 31

17 May, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

The Passion of the Christ is coming to video in a bare-bones DVD with an enhanced picture.

The Passion is by far the biggest movie of the year, with $368 million in box office receipts since its theatrical debut Feb. 25. That alone spells “hit,” industry watchers said, but the media coverage and commentary surrounding the Mel Gibson film doesn't hurt either.

The Passion arrives Aug. 31 (prebook Aug. 4) from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on VHS at $24.98 and DVD at $29.98.

The DVD includes no extras, but the 127-minute film is presented in the maximum bit rate possible, with 5.1 Dolby Digital and 5.1 DTS sound offerings.

“The most important thing for the fans and the filmmakers was that this be the most technologically superior presentation of the film possible,” said Steve Feldstein, SVP of marketing communications for Fox.

“The bit rate was such that we ate up the bulk of the space on the DVD with the film itself.”

The relatively high $29.98 price for a DVD without extras won't be a problem for this film's, well “passionate” shoppers, all the retailers interviewed for this story said.

Steve Scavelli, president of Flash Distributors, said, “I do not feel the price point is an issue at all. I believe this piece is an emotional piece, as much as it is a movie.”

Scavelli said there's a groundswell of interest in the title from outside the traditional video market as well. “We are getting a tremendous amount of calls and e-mails from church groups, schools, etc.,” he said.

Starting June 1, www.thepassionofthechrist.com will offer customized church sleeves and downloadable materials encouraging church ministry participation.

Zondervan, an international Christian communications company, will handle distribution of the title to retailers in the Christian Booksellers Association.

“The consensus around here is that it's going to be among the biggest- selling DVDs of all time,” said Brian Lucas, spokesperson for Best Buy. “There are going to be a lot of different people carrying it, stores that may never have carried DVD before. It's like Schindler's List. It's not a movie that's easy to watch or you want to watch all the time, but it's a really important movie that consumers will want to have in their collections.”

Rental may serve as an attractive option for people who were hesitant to see the film in theaters due to its graphic violence, said Kevin Brock, buyer for the Bradley Video chain in Petaluma, Calif. Watching at home allows you stop the movie if it's too much for you, he pointed out.

Marc Oringer of the Champagne Video chain in Manhattan said, “The ones who haven't seen it in the theater definitely want to see it,” he said.

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