Director's cuts are usually longer, beefed up with precious footage — at least in the filmmaker's mind — that ended up on the cutting-room floor the first time around.
The footage Gibson deleted is some of the goriest, which he says he removed to make it more palatable for a wider audience.
While "The Passion" grossed more than $370 million in the United States alone, some critics believed its depiction of Jesus Christ's crucifixion was relentlessly, shockingly bloody.
Gibson, the director, producer and co-writer, explains in a video introduction on the film's Web site that he was flooded with responses to "The Passion" after its debut nearly a year ago, many from people who loved the movie.
Churches organized group outings for members to see it together, while some Jewish leaders feared the film might foster anti-Semitism.
But Gibson added, "Some of you actually said that you wish you could have taken your Aunt Martha, Uncle Harry or your grandmother or some of your older kids, and you thought that perhaps the intensity of the film was prohibitive to those people.
So I listened to that and it inspired me to recut the film to cater to those people that perhaps might not have seen it because of its intensity or brutality."
Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films, which released "The Passion" last Ash Wednesday, said the distribution company had always considered offering the film annually at Easter.
"We talked about it and decided that instead of rereleasing the original, to put it out instead in this recut version," Berney told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Some of the more extreme moments have been taken out and it does have a change in tone."
It also has a change in rating. When "The Passion" came out last year, it was rated R "for sequences of graphic violence." Newmarket had hoped the recut version would receive a PG-13 rating, but the MPAA ratings board ruled it was still graphic enough to merit an R.
So it's being sent out unrated this weekend to 950 theaters, with Berney saying "it's up to them to put it out with an R" — or to put it out at all. Some theater chains have said they won't show the movie because it has no rating and it's already come out on DVD.
"It's still a really intense film and Mel Gibson feels this is not compromising in any way," Berney said. "It's still a very personal, moving, intense film, but shaded down a bit."