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The Da Vinci Code attracts millions

Paul Bettany in The Da Vinci Code

Story by Jack Foley

MOVIE fans flocked to The Da Vinci Code during its opening weekend (May 19-21, 2006), helping it to become the second most successful film opening in history, according to its distributor.

The film version of Dan Brown’s book took an estimated $224m (£119m) at box offices around the world despite controversy and negative reviews.

It was beaten only by Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, which took $253m (£135m) in its first weekend last year.

In America and Canada, it is estimated to have taken $77m (£41m) between Friday and Sunday, putting its performance at the high end of industry expectations.

But that was still some way behind the North American record for a debut weekend held by another Sony Pictures release – Spider-Man 2, which earned $115m (£61m) in 2002.

Throughout the rest of the world, however, The Da Vinci Code looks to set a new record for ticket sales, amassing $147m (£78m) in three days (if the figures are verified).

In spite of the film’s healthy box office success, the controversy surrounding the themes in both the book and the film continues to intensify.

Dan Brown’s thriller puts forward the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had a child and their descendents survive today. It accuses the Catholic church of covering this up.

With this in mind, members of the ultra-Catholic group, Christian Militants, picketed some cinemas in Rome, chanting: “Dan Brown, remember you will also be judged by Christ”.

Scuffles also broke out as two Italian local councillors burned the book in the main square of the village of Ceccano, which lies 43 miles south east of Rome, on Saturday.

In America, meanwhile, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, took out a full-page newspaper advertisement on Friday calling for prayer vigils outside at least 1,000 cinemas.

This was in addition to the ongoing protests in India, where censors demanded a disclaimer to say the film is “a work of pure fiction”. One member of a leading Catholic group has even gone on hunger strike to the death in protest.

In China, the state-backed Roman Catholic Church is urging its members to boycott the film, while censors in Thai are seeking to cut the last 10 minutes because they are deemed “blasphemous”.

The film’s director, Ron Howard, is at a loss to understand much of the controversy surrounding the movie, however, and has refused any attempt to add a disclaimer.

He also referred to the negative reviews as frustrating, predicting that it would play better with audiences than with critics.

He added: “This is supposed to be entertainment. It’s not theology and it should not be misunderstood as such.”

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