Opening-weekend box office estimates for ''The Da Vinci Code'' are high -- but will negative response to the film at Cannes and among critics affect its long-term earnings?
Credit: Da Vinci Code: Simon Mein

The only Da Vinci Code mystery Hollywood is trying to solve at this point is what number the movie will hit this weekend at the box office.

One thing is clear: The movie will be one of the widest releases ever, launching in an estimated 4,000 U.S. locations with roughly one-third of U.S. screens expected to show the film. Within a few days, it will open in dozens of countries around the world, on a reported 11,930 screens. It opened Wednesday in France and several other territories. Tracking research has pointed to a Stateside opening in the range of $75 million, though the number could be even higher given the rabid following for Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel. Some betting websites better known for Super Bowl wagers are laying odds on the weekend, placing the over-under at $85 million.

The major ”but” is the film’s lukewarm reception at the Cannes film festival, which kicked off May 17 with a lavish Da Vinci Code premiere. A screening for critics on Tuesday night yielded decidedly mixed reviews, with the New York Times calling it ”busy, trivial, inoffensive” and Variety deeming it ”oppressively talky.” Like mega-Cannes premieres of recent vintage such as Matrix Reloaded, it was screened for next to no one — not even the usual focus-group audiences — before critics saw it Tuesday night. (Read EW critic Owen Gleiberman’s review.) That led some journalists to suggest that Sony was refusing to screen it in advance because the movie may not deliver the goods (though, in fairness, the same studio used a virtually identical strategy on Spider-Man, which apparently put up some halfway-decent numbers.) If that turns out to be the consensus, as in the case of Matrix, it would not hinder a monster opening. But it could curtail the film’s longer-term prospects, at least here at home. That scenario could open up unexpected room for the next big 747 on the summer runway, X-Men: The Last Stand — which is also screening in Cannes.

The Da Vinci Code
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