So reports Bloomberg.com:
Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, is looking forward to summer. That's when the Sony Corp. unit will release ``The Da Vinci Code,'' one of the big-budget movies that Blake says have a good chance of reviving the U.S. box office after last year's plunge, the worst in almost two decades.
"We're about to get an incredible summer,'' Blake said in an interview. Summer is the most important season for studios, bringing in about 40 percent of annual ticket sales,
This year's summer movies start May 5 with Viacom Inc.'s "Mission Impossible III,'' starring Tom Cruise. Also on tap are Warner Bros.' "Poseidon'' and News Corp.'s "X-Men: The Last Stand.'' Studios are betting billions of dollars that last summer's decline was a fluke, rather than a sign that viewers made a permanent switch to video games or the Internet.
A year ago, the season began with a whimper as "Kingdom of Heaven'' helped extend a streak of declines in weekend box office. U.S. and Canadian ticket sales in the May-to-September period fell 8.5 percent from a year earlier to $3.62 billion, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. That precipitated a 5.2 percent annual decline to $8.95 billion, the biggest drop since 1986.
"Kingdom of Heaven" was a big budget, big name (Ridley Scott, Orlando Bloom) movie that was blasted by many critics for its historical revisionism and skewed presentation of Christians during the Crusades (I didn't see it). So, will "The Da Vinci Code," which has big names (Ron Howard, Tom Hanks) and is, to put it mildly, filled with historical revisionism and skewed depictions of Catholic history and beliefs, also fail? I seriously doubt it. It's based on the best-selling novel in recent history and is going to benefit from controversy (both real and contrived). Marketing-wise, it is much more like "The Passion of the Christ," which was based on a decent-selling book and also benefited from controversy. And if this story from Australia is any indication of what interest may be in other parts of the world, the cinematic version of the Code will easily hit the $200 million:
Meanwhile, gold-class tickets for The Da Vinci Code movie are virtually sold out for the first week of screenings, although the movie's premiere is still more than a month away. Simon Curavic of Hoyts Melbourne Central said: "Our biggest bookings have been from corporations hiring out entire cinemas for their clients."
The Da Vinci Code — starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Ian McKellen — has its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17. It opens the next day in Australia.
See related story here.