The movie of "The Da Vinci Code" finally opens on Friday. Needless to say, it's quite a big deal. Especially for the media. The press is having a field day doing its typically expert film analysis, as reports of people angered by the subject matter flood in.
According to the accounts, protests are occurring throughout the world. Moreover, these protests are meaningful, reporters note. They could impact the film's box office.
The stories all ignore one small reality --
All of these protests have already been made when the novel was originally published. And made overwhelmingly more forcefully.
Gee, and how did all that work out for the protesters?
It truly was a massive, full-force onslaught. Major analytical articles were written by religious experts. Competing books were published to "debunk" the work of fiction. Scholars were relentlessly interviewed on TV news. Television specials questioned the novel's details. Church services were devoted to pulpit criticism.
And the novel sold 40 million copies around the world.
(Some perspective is needed here: For most books, 5,000 sales is the average. A bestseller may make the lists with 100,000 copies sold.)
It took the "Harry Potter" phenomenon five books to reach 40 million sold. McDonalds dreams of selling that many hamburgers. It's hard to imagine 40 million copies of any book being sold, even if you had naked breasts on every page.
So much for the effectiveness of protesting "The Da Vinci Code." And the crackerjack pundits have the idea that these movie protests actually mean something. That the public will suddenly shake their heads and say, "Ohhh! So that's what they were complaining about before!"
Mind you, if someone feels in their heart they have to protest, they should. It's understandable. And anything is fair game. Just don't be surprised if Sony Studios sends you a "thank you" note.
However the movie does, it will because of how much people decide they want to see it. Period. If galactic, well-organized protests couldn't keep 40 million books from being sold, vigils are not going stop anyone from seeing Tom Hanks.
By the way, that leads to a second category of whiz-bang news reporting, and one that is even more ludicrous than the first, if that's possible. It's the kind that wonders if the movie of "The Da Vinci Code" will do well at the box-office, particularly in light of the less-than-enthusiastic word coming from the Cannes Film Festival.
Are these movie "analysts" insane?
(Side note: Why anyone outside of Hollywood actually cares what a movie grosses remains a bewildering question. But that's a discussion for another time.)
Let's play a game for a moment. And there's a twist at the end.
Let's say a mere 25% of the people who bought the book care to see the movie. That's 10 million people.
And let's say each of them goes with just one other person. No groups of friends allowed. We're now at 20 million.
Okay, now let's say each person is able to find a magic movie theater that benevolently only charges $7 a ticket.
And let's say that no one else in the entire world goes to see the movie.
No one else. None of those people who don't read, but only like movies, TV and video games. None of those who refuse to buy a $25 book, but would rather "wait for the movie." Let's say none of those people - people who only like movies - don't go to the most-anticipated movie of the year.
"The Da Vinci Code" will still make $140 million worldwide.
But all those prime movie-goers above, who we're not including? That's not the twist.
You see, with a book, people only buy it once. With a movie, though, a whole lot of people go a second time. And some fanatics, repeatedly. And they buy a ticket every single time.
And that's not even the twist.
The twist is this - you know that "40 million copies sold" figure you keep hearing? It is only for...copies sold. It has nothing to do with how many people actually read the book! Does anyone think that each sold copy of "The Da Vinci Code" was only read by one, lone person?? That book probably got handed off so many times it should be a football. And then there are the library copies. And just-released paperback.
And some pundits question whether "The Da Vinci Code" will do well as a movie??? Apparently some pundits are so bewildered by life they are unable to pund.
Clearly the movie has high expectations, and it may not meet them. Or may. But expectations are a separate matter and meaningless. What matters to any business is the bottom line, what's in the till. (Little known fact: No movie in the history of Hollywood has ever beat expectations. And yes, this includes "The Blair Witch Project.")
My prediction means zippo. The movie will make what it makes. In the end, I have no idea what its box office will be. I don't even care what its box office will be. It's entirely their money. But trees have limbs so that some of us can go out on one. And risking public ridicule, I will be shocked if the movie of "The Da Vinci Code" - whatever its reviews - doesn't make at least $300 million around the world.
I also predict gasoline will hit $3 a gallon.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg