Religious leaders are poised to make Mel Gibson's controversial film THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST a hit when it opens in America later this month (FEB04) - by giving away free tickets.

The movie, about the final hours of Jesus Christ's life, has been slammed as depicting Jews in a negative light, but church bosses are encouraging both Christians and non-believers to go and watch it.

Some churches are even booking entire cinemas for the film's opening day, while some are selling tickets on their websites and others are simply giving them away.

KYLE FISK, spokesman for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS, says, "Churches are intending to use this film to share their faith with people in their community who would never go into a church but would take a free ticket to go to The Passion."

JOSH BARAN, who helped publicise the similarly notorious THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, says, "They're going to bus them to theatres. They will give assignments in many churches go to the movie, we're going to talk about it. I think it's going to be one of the big movies of the year."

Pastor CORY ENGEL adds, "This is a window of opportunity we have. Here's a guy who's putting his money into a movie that has everything to do with what we do.

"Churches used to communicate by having a little lecture time on Sunday morning. People don't interact that way anymore. Here's a chance for us to use a modern-day technique to communicate the truth of the BIBLE."

06/02/2004 17:29