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Great Falls pastors arrange four weeks of Jesus film

(ran PW, PS editions of Pasco Times)

A group of Great Falls pastors has succeeded in bringing Mel Gibson's movie about Jesus' last hours to Great Falls, starting on Ash Wednesday _ and continuing for four weeks.

The Rev. Cory Engel, of Harvest Springs Community Church, spearheaded an effort by local evangelical churches to get Passion of the Christ brought here by pledging to buy large numbers of tickets.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," he said.

The movie is scheduled to debut on 2,000 screens nationwide on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. Randy Boleman, west division manager for Carmike Cinemas Inc., said Carmike will open it that day in most of its 300 locations.

In Montana, it is scheduled to open in Great Falls, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula and Helena.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Christian Lent, the 40-day period leading to Easter.

"The preliminary booking in Great Falls is for four weeks, but if there's plenty of demand, that could easily be extended," Boleman said.

Theaters will be able to sell advance tickets starting Friday, Boleman said. That's a first for most of the theaters. Some Great Falls churches plan to buy up whole showings for members and friends.

The film has drawn advance praise from the Rev. Billy Graham and other conservative Christian leaders. But it also has raised concerns that its depiction of the role of Jewish leaders might revive the idea that all Jews are to blame for Christ's death.

_ Wire reports