PREPARE FOR THE SECOND COMING Of The Passion of the Christ, that is. Reedited to tone down its most violent scenes, a new version of Mel Gibson's saga depicting Jesus' last hours will hit 500 to 700 theaters nationwide on March 11. For The Passion Recut, Gibson trimmed five to six minutes from the film's goriest sequences, including the Crucifixion (viewers will no longer see the nail pierce Jesus' hand) and a scene in which Christ is lashed by Roman soldiers.
Gibson created Recut to attract squeamish viewers. "A lot of people were concerned that they couldn't bring Aunt Martha or Uncle Frank because [the movie] was a little too much," says one Passion insider. "And some parents didn't want to bring their children." But despite Gibson's hopes for a PG-13 rating, the MPAA ratings board refused to budge from the original version's R—so Gibson decided to leave it unrated.
Newmarket decided on the Easter-season rerelease in response to requests from religious groups and plans to send it back to theaters every Easter if interest holds. Its box office will only add to the film's record totals: Originally released in February 2004, it has earned over $600 million worldwide—more than any other R-rated film—and reaped $189 million from DVD sales.