It's called the greatest story ever told and in just under two weeks, Mel Gibson's, "Passion of the Christ" will bring that story to the big screen. But unlike the dozens of other movies about Jesus, this one is already setting records across the nation and in Meridian.
"We are pretty much sold out. All the auditoriums for the first week. We still had some people calling and we wanted everyone to see it, so we ordered a second real," said Monte Royal
In fact, the theater has sold nearly 4,000 advanced tickets, a first for Bonita Lakes Cinema and a surprise to Royal. "In the past, movies of a religious nature have not done very well, even with all the hype and calls, you bring the movie to the theater and no one shows up," said Royal.
The key to the premature success of this movie is its appeal to the Christian Community. They are using it as a marketing tool.
"We bought about 50 tickets and we are going to give our congregation 2 tickets, but the deal is they have to bring someone who has never been to church," said Terrence Roberts of the New Wine Ministries.
Roberts is not alone. Over a dozen churches in Meridian and hundreds across the U.S. are hosting similar programs. In fact, North Park Church bought out an entire theater for the movie. But the buzz around this flick isn't all positive.
The Jewish community has expressed concern the movie distorts history and could incite anti-Semitism.
A claim Mel Gibson has denied. Either way, this rated R movie told in subtitles is set to be the biggest debut for an independent film in history.
"Someone has said this is the biggest outreach opportunity for the Christian Community in 2000 years," said Roberts.
A big statement for a movie that hasn’t even opened yet.