‘Passion’ DVD due Aug. 31

Studio skeds its two biggest releases one month apart

HOLLYWOOD — Fox and Icon Prods. have announced an Aug. 31 release date for the DVD version of “The Passion of the Christ.”

The Fox release date will be just three weeks prior to the studio’s first DVD release of the “Star Wars Trilogy” on Sept. 21. The studio may well have two of the biggest releases of the year less than a month apart. And although Fox would not comment, a followup special edition is believed to be in the works for a potential release at Christmas or Easter.

Meanwhile, MGM has licensed DVD distribution rights for the movie in the U.K. from Icon. No date has been set, but word is the title will be released in other European territories, including Germany, on Sept. 2.

The “Passion” DVD set for Aug. 31 release will be a single-disc release with few, if any, bonus features and tagged with a retail price of $29.98.

Gibson has said in interviews that he may let the movie stand on its own on the DVD, but the Pax network ran a primetime special on the making of the movie that could be included. It featured Gibson and most of the cast and crew on the set and in subsequent interviews similar to those typically featured in DVD bonus features.

With the R-rated “Passion” generating nearly $370 million in the U.S. alone to rank among the top 10 moneymakers of all time, industry observers believe at least 15 million DVD copies could be sold domestically, resulting in another $350 million-$400 million in consumer spending on the DVD.

Fox is targeting the church market hard, setting up bulk ordering at a special Web site where customized “church sleeves” and other church-oriented marketing and promotional materials can be downloaded.

The studio’s sister News Corp. international Christian communications company Zondervan will handle distribution to retailer members of the Christian Booksellers Assn.

Disc will contain English or Spanish subtitles. (All the dialogue is in Aramaic or Latin.)

There has also been discussion about a theatrical re-release of the film.

MGM’s UK distribution deal encompasses six titles in addition to “Passion”: “21 Grams,” “Shattered Glass,” “Sylvia,” “Dogville,” “The Singing Detective” and “Gladiatress.”

MGM will begin releasing the titles this summer.