Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ launched in the UK this weekend to see churches block-booking screenings and offering tickets to interested parties for free in some areas of the country.
Despite this enthusiasm the film was unable to top the UK/Ireland chart over the three-day weekend landing in second for Icon Film Distribution with $3.1m (£1.7m) taken from 323 sites. This placed it behind Starsky & Hutch's third weekend gross of $3.36m (£1.85m) from 453.
However, it was a complicated weekend to track. Entertainment Film Distributor's opener Dawn Of The Dead's gross of $3.5m (£1.9m) from 339 included previews of $544,425 (£299,434) which, when added, placed it ahead of Starsky & Hutch.
Traditionally, the industry includes preview figures within a film's first weekend gross in a territory.
The Passion received UK-only previews on Wednesday and Thursday of $568,733 (£312,803) which, if added into the weekend gross, would provide a chart-topping $3.7m (£2m).
However, the territory is officially classed as 'the UK and Ireland'. The Passion launched in the Republic Of Ireland two weeks ago - so the UK-only previews were, therefore, tallied into the total gross rather than the weekend figures, it's third official weekend in the territory.
Dawn Of The Dead's previews were included in the weekend as it was that film's first official weekend.
Similar cases occurred with BVI's Starsky & Hutch earlier this month and Entertainment's Elf last November.
Both films launched in London's West End before widening across the nation. Nationwide previews that took place after - or at the same time as - the films launched in London, therefore, had to be included in the total grosses only - and not the first wide weekend.
Icon will still be very pleased with The Passion's performance. The film's $9,610 location average was the best of any film over the three day weekend (March 26-28). It is also undeniable that had the film launched across both the UK and the Republic Of Ireland this weekend it would have landed the top spot, even without previews.
The Passion Of The Christ opened in Ireland on March 12 when it claimed over $410,000 from 46 screens for Eclipse Pictures, which handles the film for Icon in this territory. To date across Ireland and the UK the religious drama has built up a healthy $5.1m (£2.8m).
By default of being one of the biggest international territories, the UK's opening ranked behind only Mexico in terms of international launches for Mel Gibson's film (see below).
PASSION TOP 10 INT'L OPENINGS
* including previews