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‘Hedge’ not afraid of ‘The Da Vinci Code’

Movies like ‘Shrek’ and ‘Madagascar’ prove animation is tough to beat
/ Source: The Associated Press

Most in Hollywood wouldn’t want to do battle with a sure blockbuster like “The Da Vinci Code.”

But a dozen furry forest creatures aren’t afraid.

DreamWorks’ big-budget animated feature “Over the Hedge” is going head-to-head this weekend with Sony’s big-screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s world-conquering best-seller, “The Da Vinci Code.” Both films open Friday.

DreamWorks officials aren’t worried. They see their film as perfect counterprogramming.

“The tone and mood are different,” said Bonnie Arnold, producer of “Over the Hedge.” “Audiences will have both ends of the spectrum to choose from.”

“The Da Vinci Code,” rated PG-13, is a thriller that follows a symbologist, played by Tom Hanks, as he investigates a murder inside the Louvre and unravels clues hidden in Leonardo Da Vinci’s works that threaten the foundation of Christianity. “Over the Hedge” is a PG-rated, family-friendly romp that focuses on a group of animals that wake from their winter slumber to find their forest shrunk by an encroaching housing development.

‘Could end up being one of the biggest weekends’The weekend’s counterprogramming has a third front, too. “See No Evil,” an R-rated teenagers-in-peril horror flick opens Friday.

Three films from three different genres make for a winning combination, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

“It could end up being one of the biggest weekends ever at the box office,” he said, noting that current box-office biggies “Mission: Impossible III” and “Poseidon” are likely to add to the weekend totals. “Studios are looking at it as an opportunity for each film to capitalize on disparate audiences.”

Anticipation has been building for months for the film version of “The Da Vinci Code.” The book was published in 2003 and has sold more than 40 million copies.

Horror movies have a built-in fan base, Dergarabedian said, and along with animated family films “have been doing extremely well” at the box office.

Besides, for the statistic-minded, DreamWorks has a history of successful animated openings in May.

Following in the footsteps of ‘Shrek’Last year’s “Madagascar” was released May 27 — the same day as Adam Sandler’s comedy “The Longest Yard.” Each film generated about $47 million in box office receipts that weekend.

“Shrek 2” opened on May 19, 2004, and trounced its competition: the Brad Pitt epic “Troy,” which opened five days earlier. The green ogre captured $108 million in opening-weekend ticket sales. “Troy” took in $46.8 million.

The first “Shrek” film also opened in mid-May, 2001, earning $42.3 million at the box office.

“It seems like right there around Memorial Day is just a good time” to open animated movies, Arnold said. “There’s always room for really good family entertainment.”

Despite DreamWorks’ mid-May release history, opening “Over the Hedge” against “The Da Vinci Code” wasn’t specifically planned, Arnold said. Production on “Hedge” began four years ago.

“Even if we were thinking about spring ‘06, there wasn’t a realistic idea of all the live-action movies coming out at that point,” she said.

The lighthearted “Over the Hedge” will attract a different crowd than “Da Vinci,” she predicted.

“Event-kind of animated movies appeal to a broad audience,” she said. “I think that’s what we have going for us.”