Adage.com reports that Mel Gibson's new film, the highly controversial The Passion, took in $26.5 million on Ash Wednesday alone -- a benchmark only beaten by two films, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Star Wars. Topping that, the films distributor reported total box office receipts of $125 million for a five-day period.
Great advertising? Nope. It was the Gibson team's ability to leverage all of the controversy around the film and use it to create a word-of-mouth campaign that brought the buzz about the film to a deafening pitch. As Paul Silver, a key marketer in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding put it, "They've turned every liability into an asset." Among Gibson's tactics: sending 250,000 DVDs to Christian ministers and priests around the country and creating a website where clerics could order promotional posters, door hangers and hymnal slip cards to distribute to their congregations.