Sony's secrecy puts a chill on 'Da Vinci' debut

Cannes may be a great place to launch a tentpole, but woe to the studio that doesn’t let the media in on the festivities.

With not a single media screening ahead of its Cannes bow, “The Da Vinci Code” seemed to engender a major backlash when the first reviews emerged.

It remains to be seen whether Sony’s secrecy gambit will boost box office. Pic rolled out worldwide over the weekend in some 7,000-plus engagements.

Thanks to its mid-May date — ahead of the summer B.O. season — studios often favor the fest with glitzy preems for some of their biggest tentpoles.

Over the last three years, the Croissette provided a worldwide PR platform for “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” “Shrek 2″ and “The Matrix Reloaded.”

Each was among the top three worldwide grossers of their respective years — a pattern Sony surely hoped to repeat with “The Da Vinci Code.”

But unlike “Code,” all three of those films were well-screened for the media weeks before their Cannes coming-out parties. Warners held its first media screening of “Reloaded” a week before the Cannes event; Variety‘s Todd McCarthy got a chance to see “Shrek 2″ a week before it debuted on the Croissette; and Fox showed “Sith” to the media more than a week before its Riviera run.

Holding back “Code” may have kept it from generating more controversy than the novel — since no one knew what actually was in the movie — but it also led to some suspicion that like other cold-openers, the movie wasn’t very good.

Would reviews have been much better if crix had seen the pic before jetting off to France? Who knows? But the experience reminds studios that when they build hype, they’d best be ready to deliver.

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