Politics & Policy

The Da Vinci Code Is Dead

Consider the numbers.

The Da Vinci Code opened four weeks ago with an ungodly amount of free publicity and returned a whopping $77 million in its first week of release. It should have broken all records — it had that kind of momentum. But then it dropped like a stone. In four weeks it went from $77 million to $45 million to $18 million and now to $10 million. That’s an 88-percent drop in a month. And this is while still appearing in more than 3,700 theaters. D-e-a-d.

Make no mistake, the movie made its money back, but it needed the foreign markets to do it. Its production budget was $125 million. Add another $50-$75 million for advertising/marketing and prints and so far its $189 million domestic take is under water.

Internationally, the movie has grossed $452 million in 67 countries, which will likely more than cover what must have been a substantial international advertising and marketing budget. (And shamefully, the “Catholic” countries of France, Italy, and Spain snapped up tickets to the tune of $29 million, $34 million, and $28 million respectively..)

It is expected that ancillary sales will bring in substantially more, perhaps another $50 million in DVD rentals and sales. Toss in television and cable and they are looking at nice profit.

So, how can I possibly suggest that The Da Vinci Code is dead and maybe even a failure? First, because it dropped so quickly — four weeks and poof. It can be argued that the first weekend viewers saw it because they liked the book or came in on the hype. Still, at roughly 21 million tickets sold, not even all the book-buyers saw it. What killed it was word of mouth. People hated it.

Second, it is dead because it will not make much of a profit in domestic-box-office receipts. This is particularly delicious because this is what these guys slather over the most. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard are happy when they make money in the foreign and ancillary markets but it chaps their keisters to be saved by them.

What they wanted was a movie that would top the domestic charts for this year and land in the top ten for all-time domestic releases. So far, they have failed. According to boxofficemojo.com, domestically for the year they are third, and the year is only half gone. As for all-time domestic releases they land in 75th place. As for all-time worldwide releases they are 30th.

Likely what has disappointed them even more than needing European, African, South American, and Asian money to save them were the critics. One thing Hanks et al want — maybe even more than they want American greenbacks — is the praise of critics. Instead the critics literally laughed at them.

As for those who worry about Jesus and the Church and even Opus Dei: I don’t mean to be cavalier, but Jesus can take care of himself. And smart Christians are taking this an opportunity for evangelization. As for the Church, she has seen entire civilizations come and go and she is still here. She will see Sony pass. She will see Hollywood pass, too. As for Opus Dei; membership is up.

And after all this, in the world’s largest film market — the United States — The Da Vinci Code still lags far behind The Passion of the Christ. Forgive me if I revel in that a bit.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece has been edited since posting. (9:37 A.M., June 13)

Austin Ruse is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

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