LOS ANGELES: After opening with an astonishing $125.2 million over five days, Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is positioned to get even bigger as the Christian season of Lent leads up to Easter on April 11.

The box-office total pushed ‘The Passion’ past ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ ($124.1m) for biggest debut ever by a film opening on a Wednesday — Ash Wednesday, in this case.

The total was almost $8m more than estimated, because far more people turned out to see Gibson’s grisly crucifixion recreation than originally predicted.

‘The Passion’ ultimately could take in between $300 million and $350 million in the United States and Canada alone. — AP