A conspiracy thriller set in and around the Vatican could be the next Dan Brown novel to receive the blockbuster treatment after the box-office triumph of The Da Vinci Code.
Audiences have not been deterred by the film’s lukewarm reception from critics. It has taken more than $200 million (£106 million) in the past three days, enough to propel it into Hollywood’s top four opening weekends, according to Jeff Blake, the vice-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
He said: “We are certainly exceeding all of our expectations and pointing towards being one of the top ten opening weekends of all time.
“We don’t know where in the list we fit in but that much looks guaranteed. We think we will have taken at least $200 million at the box office over the three days.”
Unlike The Da Vinci Code, the other films on the list are all special-effects-driven and eight out of ten are sequels. Two Harry Potter films, two Matrix films and two Lord of the Rings films line up behind the fifth Star Wars film, Attack of the Clones, which grossed more than $250 million in its opening weekend.
Sony Pictures, the studio behind The Da Vinci Code, is hoping to bring another novel by Brown, Angels and Demons, to the big screen, a senior executive told The Times yesterday.
Tom Hanks could return to star as the Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who appeared in the book and will be the hero of Brown’s next novel. Mr Blake said: “We are very interested in filming Angels and Demons. We hope that the relationship with Dan Brown will be a long one. That could be the next project.”
Angels and Demons was the reclusive author’s third novel after he gave up his job as an English teacher. It tells the story of Langdon’s brush with a shadowy secret society, the Illuminati, and his frantic quest for the world’s most powerful energy source, in the company of a beautiful Italian physicist whose father, a brilliant physicist, has been murdered.
The formula may sound familiar to fans of The Da Vinci Code, his fourth book, which has become a publishing phenomenon, selling more than 45 million copies. It concerns Langdon’s brush with a shadowy secret society, Opus Dei, and his frantic quest for the Holy Grail in the company of a beautiful French cryptologist whose grandfather, the Louvre’s curator, has been murdered.
The film of The Da Vinci Code, which also stars Audrey Tautou, Paul Bettany and Sir Ian McKellen, had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last week before opening at cinemas worldwide.
Critics were not inspired, with James Christopher, of The Times, calling it “a cat’s cradle of lunatic ideas with lashings of religious psychobabble”. The Da Vinci Code had relied on “a story and a cast and an idea”, Mr Blake said. “Those are not normally the essence of a blockbuster these days.”
The film has benefited from the book’s popularity, a prodigious promotional campaign and lashings of controversy. Religious groups have taken exception to Brown’s suggestion that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child by her, acts covered up by the Roman Catholic Church for 2,000 years.
Thai viewers narrowly escaped a confusing film-going experience when plans to cut the last ten minutes as a sop to protesters were shelved at the last minute. Christian groups in India, Pakistan, and South Korea marched in protest.
In Italy senior cardinals called on Christians to boycott the film, a cinema chain in Sardinia is refusing to show it and councillors in the town of Ceccano, south of Rome, burnt a copy of Brown’s book in the main square. That has not stopped the film shattering local box-office records. It took €2 million ( £1.4 million) in Italy on its opening night.
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