WORLD / Odd News

'Da Vinci' has 2nd-biggest world opening
Updated: 2006-05-22 08:47

Moviegoers gave their blessing to the "The Da Vinci Code" over the weekend, spending an estimated $77 million to see the Tom Hanks religious thriller.

This July 2005 photo, supplied by Sony Pictures, shows Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks outside Paris' Louvre Museum in a scene from Columbia Pictures' 'The Da Vinci Code.' The film, criticized by many reviewers as dull, is just the latest proof that a book that keeps you turning the pages late at night won't necessarily keep you awake in the theater. [AP]

While the film didn't set a domestic box office record, it was the largest weekend opening of the year so far and became the second largest worldwide release after "Star Wars: Episode III." It garnered some $224 million worldwide, according to Sony Pictures.

The film also was the best domestic opening for both Hanks and director Ron Howard.

The movie's performance, combined with the family film "Over the Hedge" debuting in second place with $37.2 million, was a welcome contrast to the last two weekends that saw disappointing results from "Poseidon" and "Mission: Impossible III."

The total box office was down about 2.8 percent from the same weekend last year, according to studio estimates released Sunday. But that's a tough comparison given that last year's numbers included the record-setting debut of "Star Wars: Episode III."

"'Da Vinci' opening this big just tells you that people do want to go to the movies, they just need the right movie to go," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Sony Pictures took a risk in the marketing of "The Da Vinci Code," keeping the adaptation of the Dan Brown best-seller under wraps until a few days before its opening.

The film received mixed reviews and protesters picketed outside a number of theaters, upset over the story's suggestion that Jesus Christ was married and had a child. But the controversy did little to deter moviegoers, who packed theaters in almost every country the film debuted.

"You had a built-in audience from the book and the awareness levels were so high from this film," Dergarabedian said. "You would have to live under a rock not to know this movie was opening."

The movie also set opening-weekend records in Italy and Spain, Sony Pictures said.

"This is a fantastically great surprise for us this morning," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures.

It was good news for the studio, which had been struggling of late and had been counting on "The Da Vinci Code" to boost its fortunes.

"This is starting out to be a very good year," studio chief Amy Pascal said.
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