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DVD buyers express ‘Passion’

Pic moves off shelves at top speed

The first 12 hours of sales for a movie about the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ have proved near-miraculous.

Fox reported Monday that more than 2.4 million copies of the DVD of “The Passion of the Christ” had been purchased by consumers by the time West Coasters were breaking bread during the lunch hour.

While not a record yet — consumers bought 8 million copies of “Finding Nemo” on the first day and 17 million in the first week last year — it may create a new category of records for a live-action movie, especially one rated R that features English subtitles for Latin and Aramaic dialogue.

Fox said early reports show consumers buying an average of 1.8 copies each, another anomaly.

Like most DVDs, this one almost certainly will generate more consumer spending than the $370 million the pic grossed during its U.S. theatrical run earlier this year, even though many retailers are knocking $10-$15 off the suggested retail price of $29.98 and selling it for $15-$20.

Fox is believed to have initially shipped about 15 million copies, which could gross about $300 million at $20 each. The studio is prepared to quickly refill retail orders.

The big question mark for this DVD is how many customers will be satisfied simply to rent the movie rather than purchase it, and how many who want to own it will wait to purchase an anticipated special edition, with no release date yet set, that likely will have more bonus features than just the trailer offered on this week’s release.

Video rental stores were reporting heavy activity on the title already Tuesday.