Studio gets ball rolling with third 'Da Vinci' pic

While Columbia Pictures is prepping for the May 15 release of Ron Howard’s Tom Hanks starrer “Angels and Demons,” the studio will move quickly on the third pic in the franchise.

Author Dan Brown has announced that his next installment in the “Da Vinci Code” series will be “The Lost Symbol,” which Doubleday will publish in the U.S. and Canada on Sept. 15. The first print run will be a whopping 5 million copies. Much more than that will be needed if the sales of “Angels and Demons” and “Da Vinci Code” are anything to go by.

“Angels and Demons” has sold 39 million copies to date, and that number is certain to go up following the book’s recent reemergence on the New York Times bestseller list in anticipation of the film’s release. Those sales lag behind “The Da Vinci Code,” whose 81 million copies sold puts it behind the Bible but not much else.

Sources said Brown has completed his manuscript. Sony has the rights to the Robert Langdon character, which gives the studio the right to negotiate a deal for the new title. The studio will be bullish. “The Da Vinci Code” grossed $758 million worldwide in 2006, and Columbia has high hopes for the sequel produced by Imagine topper Brian Grazer and John Calley. Brown is exec producer.

The announcement was made by Sonny Mehta, chairman and editor-in-chief of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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