Only one percent of all Japanese may be Christians, but MelGibson's The Passion Of The Christ has made many converts, if the film'sfirst week box office total is any indication. Opening on fivenine-major-cities screens, the film earned $457,987 for a screen average of$91,579 -- topping the number one The Haunted Mansion.

Distributor Nippon Herald's Web site proclaims it as thefilm that 'beat Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King and StarWars: The Phantom Menace at the US box office.' Not a bad pitch,actually, to a mass audience that has traditionally followed the US lead.

Comedy, however, has always been one glaring exception tothe big-US-hit-equals-big-Japanese-hit rule. The latest proof is FreakyFriday, which entered the chart at a mediocre number 12, with a $220,807first-week total, despite having seven more major-city screens than ThePassion.