Clues point to ample endowment

The faithful should reward 'Da Vinci Code' follow-up 'Angels,' the lone wide opener

Another week, another summer tentpole. Sony execs are eager to note that their hopes for the Tom Hanks starrer "Angels & Demons" are more earthbound than the soaring numbers posted by the chart-topping openers of the past two weekends. But shed no tears for director Ron Howard or producer Imagine Entertainment: "Angels" is likely to climb past $50 million through Sunday.

That should be plenty to snatch the weekend's top ranking. Paramount's sci-fi actioner "Star Trek" is almost guaranteed to drop more than 50% from its first-weekend tally of $75 million, even though strong daily grosses since its opening frame signal good market traction.

Fox's comic-book actioner "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" totes a domestic cume of nearly $140 million and should grab the session's bronze medal during its third frame.

"Angels" essentially is a sequel to Sony's "The Da Vinci Code," which opened in May 2006 with $77 million domestically, part of an eventual $757 worldwide haul. Hanks again portrays Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, whose latest partner-in-intrigue is played by Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer ("Vantage Point").

But "Angels" — which, like "Code," was adapted from a Dan Brown best-seller — isn't expected to reach the boxoffice heights of its predecessor. That's primarily because the book on which it was based sold half the number of copies as the "Code" tome. "Angels," however, was published three years earlier.

Prerelease interest is strongest among older moviegoers. But with largely positive early reviews, execs are hoping to broaden that base of support and build a strong "Angels" opening through the kind of word-of-mouth momentum that successful adult pics can generate.

"The tracking is very good, and we have a great adult thriller," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "So our expectations are high, and it looks like everything is working the way it should."

"Angels" has drawn criticism over its depiction of the Vatican and its history. But the fuss has been nowhere near as high-profile as the controversy that engulfed "Code" and the way it portrayed the Catholic society Opus Dei.

That might or might not be the good news. The swirl of controversy around "Code" helped spread awareness of the release and perhaps its boxoffice.

For "Angels," Hanks and Howard have been active on the morning-show circuit and have traveled widely in support of its simultaneous 96-territory international bow, including stops in Japan and throughout Europe. The duo stumped for "Code" at the 2006 Festival de Cannes, but the promo gambit turned sour amid negative buzz following the pic's fest premiere.

"Angels," which is not being screened at Cannes, is the sole domestic wide release this weekend.

Limited openers include Summit Entertainment's con-men dramedy "The Brothers Bloom." Starring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz, "Bloom" unspools in two New York theaters and two in Los Angeles and is scheduled for an expansion May 22 to the top 15 domestic markets.

Among notable expansions, Sony Pictures Classics will add 148 theaters for a total of 218 for its Diego Luna-Gael Garcia Bernal starrer "Rudo y Cursi," bringing the soccer drama into more than a dozen markets. (partialdiff)