The Passion: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mel Gibson's passion-stirring Biblical epic The Passion of Christ will open in the United States on Feb. 25 -- which is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar.

Director Gibson and Newmarket Films confirmed Thursday they had reached a deal to distribute his embattled film about Jesus Christ's Crucifixion. The agreement ended months of speculation about when the independently financed picture, which has divided some Jews and Christians over its theme, would be released in the United States. While seeking a U.S. distributor, Gibson's Icon Prods. company screened the film for many faith-based groups, like church leaders, scholars and religious charities among others, in a grass-roots efforts to promote the film. That effort will now join with Newmarket, an independent distribution company that specializes in publicizing and securing theaters for such art-house films as Memento, Real Women Have Curves and Whale Rider. Gibson will distribute the film himself through Icon in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Brian B.