News

'Da Vinci' Almighty

by Brandon Gray
Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code
May 22, 2006

Mona Lisa's smiling at the vast millions The Da Vinci Code reaped out of the gate as the publishing phenomenon translated into a theatrical blockbuster.

The Da Vinci Code divined $77.1 million from 3,735 locations, the second biggest opening weekend ever among adult-geared pictures behind The Passion of the Christ and 13th overall. Sony's $125 million adaptation of the Dan Brown novel that reportedly sold nearly 60 million copies worldwide handily marked personal best debuts for director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks.

On the global front, The Da Vinci Code played nearly everywhere and claimed the highest-grossing foreign start in history, raking in $152.6 million since Wednesday to surpass Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith's $145.5 million from the same period last year.

"It's an amazing number," said Rory Bruer, Sony's president of domestic distribution. "Certainly with a property like The Da Vinci Code, you feel like you're in a really good place right from the get-go. When you look at films that have an adult appeal, anything over $50 million has always been an amazing opening. We had always expected it to be in the $60 million range."

Sony's exit polling indicated that 53 percent of the audience was under 30 years old and 52 percent was female. Nearly half of moviegoers had not read the book.

Controversy arose over Da Vinci Code's claims about the foundation of Christianity, though the Code crew stressed that it was a work of fiction meant for entertainment. The book's fervent popularity meant that Sony could sit back while the clamoring of fans and protesters did much of the publicity work—condemnation from the Vatican and other religious groups only played into Code's mystique—and the movie's critical flagellation simply demonstrated how reviews aren't the primary determinant in what people see.

The Da Vinci Code boils down to a conventional mystery given heft by its religious and historical subject matter, incorporating elements that worked for National Treasure and the Indiana Jones movies. Adult-appealing thrillers, though, rarely are positioned as event pictures—the popular ones open above $20 million and then show longevity—and few historical antecedents exist to illuminate Code aside from The Firm and Hannibal, two bestseller adaptations that had enormous openings in their day.

A scene from Over the Hedge
The box office expanded to accommodate another major release, Paramount and DreamWorks Animation's counter-programmer Over the Hedge. The critter comedy scrounged up $38.5 million at 4,059 sites, close to the opening weekend average for all previous computer-animated features.

With a glut of similar celebrity-voiced animal pictures, including DreamWorks' own Madagascar from last May, computer animation's event status is no longer automatic. Over the Hedge wasn't distinguishable enough to break-out initially, but it is well-positioned with the family-fueled Memorial Day weekend ahead—Paramount's research suggested that the audience was 80 percent family, a high concentration by genre standards in line with Chicken Little's debut.

"The opening was very solid, well within what we were looking for," said Paramount's executive vice president and general sales manager, Don Harris. "No one ever thought this movie was Shrek. With family movies, we generally try to be on the weekend before Memorial Day. It sets them up to play very well on Memorial and into the beginning of the summer. I think our movie will stand up against [the upcoming] Cars very well."

Combined, The Da Vinci Code and Over the Hedge pulled in $115.5 million, compared to Revenge of the Sith's $108.4 million on the same weekend in 2005. Overall business was on par with last year.

Also opening, a non-descript horror movie from Lionsgate and World Wrestling Entertainment, See No Evil, which wrung a wimpy $4.6 million out of 1,257 venues.

RELATED ARTICLES
• Review - The Da Vinci Code
• 5/23/05 - Final 'Star Wars' is Box Office 'Revenge' (Same Weekend, Last Year)
• 11/22/04 - 'National Treasure,' 'SpongeBob' Clean Up

RELATED CHARTS
Controversial Movies
Computer Animation
All Time Opening Weekends
2006 Opening Weekends
Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, May 21 and was revised on Monday, May 22 with actual grosses.



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