Feb. B.O. heaven-sent record of $646 million

Lagging grosses skyrocket after divine intervention

God spoke and blessed the February box office with an all-time record of $646 million.

In its first five days, “The Passion of the Christ” worked several box office miracles. Not only did the period of Feb. 2-29 finish 2% ahead of the same frame last year, but the biblical pic’s distributor, Newmarket, catapulted to the No. 1 spot in the February market share.

Through Feb. 22, last month’s receipts were lagging behind the previous February by 29%.

Over the weekend, “Passion” beat all Sunday estimates, recording the second-highest-grossing Sunday ever with $27.9 million, behind “Spider-Man” as well as the fifth-highest Saturday with $33 million.

While Newmarket outstripped Sony for the frame’s top spot, the Culver City studio was not forsaken by auds with a second-place take of $133 million, thanks to crowdpleaser “50 First Dates.”

“Passion’s” presence in the marketplace last month also helped compensate for a couple of sour trends:

  • Twenty Oscar-nominated pics in February, led by “Return of the King,” rang up $126 million, or 20% of the frame’s take. Compared with a year ago, the month’s purse for Oscar fare was off by 18%.

  • Despite winter vacation, adolescent films such as “Eurotrip” and “The Perfect Score” were snubbed en masse by teens. With 78% of the nation’s schools off for the Presidents Day holiday — the most since 2000 — it was far hipper to hang out in a theater with Adam Sandler on the screen in “50 First Dates.” Paramount’s 2001 teenage drama “Save the Last Dance” ($91 million) remains an early-year anomaly for the under-25 set.

The top 10 grossing pics for last month: Newmarket’s “The Passion,” $125 million; Sony’s “50 First Dates,” $89 million; MGM’s “Barbershop 2,” $58 million; Disney’s “Miracle,” $56 million; New Line’s “The Butterfly Effect,” $24 million; Sony/Screen Gem’s “You Got Served,” $22 million; Universal’s “Along Came Polly,” $20 million; New Line’s “Return of the King,” $19 million; Warner Bros.’ “Mystic River,” $17 million; and Disney’s “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,” $17 million.

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