The UP TV premiere of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" on Palm Sunday delivered the network's highest ever ratings among households and key demographics, nearly 10 years after the most successful Christian movie ever made opened in theaters.
"We knew that 'The Passion of the Christ' would resonate with our audience and attract new viewers to UP as well," said Charley Humbard, president and CEO of UP. "The film is the centerpiece of our extensive Easter programming and truly epitomizes our holiday theme: 'Easter Lives Here.'"
The 2004 movie averaged a 1.2 household rating, with an average audience of 1.1 million viewers, making it the strongest telecast ever among W18-49, W25-54, A18-49, A25-54 and P2+. The movie will air again on Thursday at 10 p.m. EDT/ 7 p.m. PDT.
The film, centered on the final hours of Jesus' life and spoken entirely in reconstructed Aramaic and Latin, earned $611 million worldwide based on a $30 million production budget, making it the most successful Christian movie of all time – it made more domestically in its opening weekend than the total gross for 2014's "Son of God," the most recent film on Jesus' life.
Paul Asay, the senior associate editor of Focus on the Family's Plugged In, which screens media content and offers recommendations about its appropriateness for families, shared with The Christian Post in an interview in March that while "Son of God" fulfilled audience expectations, "The Passion" was a "genre breaker."
"[It was] both very respectful and very personal to Mel Gibson's view – it speaks to Mel Gibson's ability to craft a movie," Asay said.
In another interview with Beliefnet.com, Humbard described "The Passion" as a "love story."
"It is a depiction of what was probably the worst thing that could happen to human being – crucifixion. I mean the Romans did that for a reason, right? It wasn't the easiest way to kill you but it was definitely a way to make others pay attention. And try to dissuade them from doing things the Romans didn't want them to do," the UP CEO stated.
"So the movie has a lot of very difficult, very tough and challenging scenes. But for all audience and for people out there who really understand the Easter story and try to live their lives and follow the teachings that come from Christ and from the Easter story, who really feel like it, it is such a powerful movie that can move hearts."