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Written and directed by Mel Gibson, Passion is defying Hollywood and mobilizing churches across the nation.

"It's just tremendous. We're excited about it," said pastor Herman Brown. National religious leaders are promoting the movie to u-s churches. They're sending dvd clips to church heads like Herman Brown, encouraging them to get members and non members to see the film.

"Response has been such that all 175 tickets were gone in the first week. So they're allowing us to set up some extra chairs, " Brown said. The movie opens in Rockford at the Alpine Cinema on Feb. 25. Theater operators would not speak with us on camera but tell us they've sold an unprecedented number of advanced sales tickets to church groups.

The movie tells the story of Christ's final hours before his crucifixion. It's been criticized for being anti-semitic and straying from history, but pastor Brown says he thinks the movie will be good for the church and people looking for hope and answers.

"I'm hoping if nothing else it will get people to begin to contemplate about the reality that this story is true. And then begin to dig deeper and seek advice from local churches," Brown said.

Passion is rated "R" because of the graphic scene of Jesus’ death. Nationally theaters have made more than $5 million from advanced ticket sales for the movie.