Sony is hoping God is on its side this weekend.
“The Da Vinci Code” hits theaters this weekend with gigantic hype…and tracking to match.
Sony delivers the religious thriller to 3,735 theaters domestically and 12,213 in 79 markets overseas. Thanks to the pedigree of a mega-bestseller, along with a huge star and major marketing push, “Code” is putting Sony in the enviable position of trying to dampen industry expectations that pic could open as high as the 80 millions. An opening at least in the 60s looks more likely.
Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation is praying parents will remember its summer tentpole, “Over the Hedge.”
In the States, movie ticketing service Fandango said “Code” is accounting for 81% of all advance sales. “Over the Hedge”: 4%.
The only hurdle for “Code” seems to be the largely negative reviews out of Cannes, which could put a damper on interest among some discriminating older viewers. Because the film appeals largely to adults, however, Sony is counting not just on a big opening but a long run; the sked for the next month is largely filled with comedies and pics aimed at younger auds.
“We have the opportunity for a really good opening weekend, but the great thing about adult films is the multiple you can get on them,” said Sony domestic distrib prexy Rory Bruer. “We’ll be in a great position for Memorial Day weekend as well.”
Identifying pics with which to draw comparisons to “Code” is tough. The last time a recently published huge-selling thriller novel for adults was adapted into a film was in 1993, when “The Firm” opened to $32.5 million over four days — about $50 million at today’s ticket prices.
Regardless of how big a B.O. portrait the Tom Hanks starrer will paint, Paramount is already resigned to a relatively soft opening for “Over the Hedge,” which bows at 4,059 locations. Tracking shows only modest awareness of the pic, mainly because “Code” is sucking up most moviegoers’ attention.
“With the 800-pound gorilla in the room, our anticipation is lower than for other animated films we’ve opened in May,” admitted distrib prexy Jim Tharp.
“Over the Hedge,” the first pic Par’s distributing for DreamWorks since closing its purchase, has stayed mostly under the radar compared with other DreamWorks toons such as “Madagascar” and “Shark Tale” — both of which opened at $47 million. But with “Code” dominating the market and potentially giving many parents something they’d rather see on their own, a bow in the 30s looks more likely for “Hedge.”
Toon has a wide berth for the family aud until Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” opens June 9. DreamWorks Animation and Par still hope it will show strong legs and end up in the B.O. range of “Madagascar” and Fox’s “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” which have domestic cumes of $193 million and $188 million, respectively.
Sony’s foreign opening for “Code” represents its widest foreign release ever — about 600 more than it allocated for “Spider-Man 2” — with India and the Middle East the only territories not going day-and-date. Sony plans to launch in the UAE on May 31.
Pic bowed Wednesday in France to a solid $1.9 million at 885 screens — respectable biz given that 12 million in Gaul were watching the European Champions League soccer final between Arsenal and Barcelona.
“Code” sold 232,898 French tickets, making it the year’s second-biggest Gallic bow after “Les Bronzes 3.” Wednesday’s tally was well under opening-day figures in France for last year’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” (641,799 tickets) and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (606,591).
First-day “Code” gross on Thursday reached a respectable $1.3 million at 563 sites in Australia, on par with “Spider-Man 2,” and $209,000 in New Zealand. Pic’s Wednesday launch grosses hit $275,000 at 125 locations in Belgium and $87,000 at 25 in French-speaking Switzerland.
“Code” also launched Thursday in Germany, Hong Kong, Russia and South Korea. It opens today in most foreign markets and on Saturday in Japan.
“Code” will face foreign competish only from UIP’s third frame of “Mission: Impossible 3,” which had cumed $141 million internationally as of Wednesday but is expected to drop sharply during this weekend.
In Germany, “Code” is tracking well in all quadrants and showing particular strength with women over 25. Arne Schmidt, a spokesman for Germany’s Cinemaxx chain, asserted negative reviews rarely affect a film’s box office performance in that market and predicted a Teutonic gross of $50 million — trailing “Goblet of Fire” at $68 million but topping “Revenge of the Sith” at $48 million.
In Spain, Sony secured a record 750 prints, and exhibitors say most auds will be unaffected by early negative notices.
“Art film audiences may read reviews but not ‘Da Vinci Code’ followers. Why would they care?” one noted.
Despite massive drubbings in the Italian national media, “Code” remains poised to make a killing in Italy, where advance ticket sales have soared to unprecedented levels as pic readies for release on a massive 910 screens — half the total capacity.
“Opening weekend is guaranteed to be a record-breaker,” one Italo booker predicted. “Then we’ll see. There might be a drop, but I’m pretty confident it will have legs.”
“Code” unspools on 393 prints in China — a very wide release. Columbia TriStar Film Distribution Intl. is forecasting a cume of $9 million.
“Code” preemed in Beijing on Wednesday night, a few hours ahead of the official Cannes bow. The religious controversy means little to most Chinese, and the hubbub in Cannes is expected to fuel interest in the film rather than dampen it.
Meanwhile, UIP’s taking a quiet approach overseas for “Hedge,” with day-and-date launches in only a trio of Asian markets — Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. The rest of the overseas openings will be staggered over the summer to coincide with local holidays.
Foreign coin for “Hedge” will probably outstrip domestic given the massive traction other toons have shown overseas, including $421 million and counting for “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and $335 million for “Madagascar.”
Also opening domestically this weekend at a relatively light 1,257 playdates is “See No Evil,” the first pic from the WWE Films banner. Lionsgate is releasing the horror pic, which stars wrestler Kane. Gross below $10 million is likely.
Platform launches include IFC’s “Twelve and Holding” on three, Indican’s “Moonlight” on two and Strand’s “Lemming,” ThinkFilm’s “The King” and Artistic License’s “Mouth to Mouth” on one each.
(Patrick Frater, John Hopewell, Ali Jaafar, Alison James, Liza Klaussmann, Nicole LaPorte, Ed Meza and Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.)