Originally created 01/16/04

Mel Gibson's 'Passion' film to be released on 2,000 screens



LOS ANGELES -- Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," a drama about the last hours of Jesus, is set to debut on 2,000 screens - an unusually large release for an independent religious film made in dead languages.

The movie, with dialogue in Latin and Aramaic and English subtitles, will hit theaters on Feb. 25, which is Ash Wednesday on some Christian calendars.

That would mark the widest opening ever of a subtitled picture, Variety reported Wednesday. The previous record was 1,225 screens for the Hong Kong action film "Iron Monkey" in 2001.

Some critics of "The Passion of the Christ" worry that its depiction of the role of Jewish leaders in Jesus' final hours will revive the idea that all Jews are to blame for his death.

Gibson has repeatedly denied that his film maligns Jews. It has won praise from many prominent Christians including evangelist Billy Graham. An aide to Pope John Paul II has said the pontiff felt the film accurately shows what Jesus went through.