When Mel Gibson went looking for major movie studios to lend a hand to his film project, The Passion of The Christ, they declined. Would a subtitled film in Aramaic and Latin play well in Americana? Was the subject matter too intense or, even worse from a financial standpoint, too polarizing?

Whatever the rationale, they passed, leaving Gibson little choice but to dig into his own pockets to finance the movie. Then, he turned to smallish Newmarket Films for distribution.

BoxOfficeMojo.com has the somber epic coming in at a production cost of only $30 million, with a penny-pinching marketing tab of $15 million. That's pocket change to major studios like Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Disney (NYSE:DIS), Sony (NYSE:SNE), and Viacom (NYSE:VIA).

Imagine their mea culpas now. The film turned in the year's biggest opening weekend outside of the critical holiday and summer seasons, grossing just over $125 million at the box office. In fact, more than half of all tickets sold at the multiplex this past week were for Passion.

Given its modest budget and the fact that theater owners take thicker cuts of ticket sales later in a flick's run, Passion is a runaway success. After all, many films turn a profit by the time they complete their multiplex tenures and flesh out their retail DVDs plans, but Gibson's accomplished that feat in days.

So, is Hollywood paying the price for getting too formulaic? I can't recall the last mainstream romantic comedy or action flick that wasn't predictable. As controversial as Passion may have been, I'm glad it's a hit. Maybe this will be a wake up call for studios. Otherwise, even lay-up franchises could flunk out if crowds grow too apathetic; my Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) queue will run dry.

I mean, I hated Blair Witch Project -- it was painful just to watch -- but I recognized its uniqueness. Thank Artisan for that. Disney's Miramax is another studio that has taken chances with celluloid and has typically come out on top. When will the others learn?

Did you see The Passion of The Christ this past week? What did you think? Was the controversy warranted? All this and more -- in the Christian Fools discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz did see the film so he could form his own opinion. Netflix was once a stock recommendation in Motley Fool Stock Advisor . He owns shares of Disney and Netflix.