I’m told Sony Pictures is skipping the usual mind-numbing U.S. premieres for its tentpole summer picture The Da Vinci Code and substituting an absurdly lavish international junket aboard a specially outfitted Eurostar destined for the 59th Cannes Film Festival world premiere. The train will be diverted from London’s Waterloo Station straight to Cannes (instead of Paris) for “all sorts of old-fashioned Hollywood fun” to amuse the film’s stars and the world’s press, sources gushingly tell me. Supposedly, each car will be decorated like a different chapter of the book — as if the movie isn’t already the most overhyped product around. (Speaking of London, High Court justice Peter Smith ruled today on that copyright infringement case in favor of the publisher of Dan Brown’s omnipresent novel.) Then, the studio will bookend the fest by creating hoopla around Marie Antionette, its 18th century biopic entry starring Kirsten Dunst. I can’t wait to see how the French respond to Sofia Coppola’s attempt to make Miss “Let-Them-Eat-Cake” sympathetic.

Meanwhile, I’m told that Paramount will have its biggest presence at the May 17-28 festival in recent memory to coincide with the launch of its new global brand and its self-distributing in 15 of the major territories by 2007.  And let’s not forget about Fox’s X-Men 3 (The Last Stand) and Warner Bros.’ The Fountain bowing there.

So I’ve got to ask: Why in the world are these studios wasting their money?  After all, the Cannes Film Festival in recent years has seemed little more than a quaint relic of a rich cinematic past … a faded glory where a handful of stars jet in to prostitute themselves for one night before those hordes of photographers in front of the Palais des Festivals on the Boulevard de la Croisette, and then jet out again … a tax-deductible excuse for Hollywood moguls to sponge off studios at the Hotel Du Cap or The Carlton … a self-absorbed competition where a bunch of Europeans no one ever heard of judge — more like ignore — American movie product for the Palme D’Or. In other words, who gave a rat’s ass? But all of a sudden, ooh la la, Hollywood is doing the can-can at Cannes this year. I say don’t-don’t. Frankly, I think it’s spendthrift ego-feed.

Nevertheless, Paramount will be showcasing newly acquired Dreamworks product, pushing the animated feature Over the Hedge and hosting a luncheon presentation of Dreamgirls with Eddie, Beyonce and Jamie. Also getting supersized treament will be the documentary, Al Gore: An Inconvenient Truth. And it’s already been announced that the studio plans to show 20 minutes of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Making the trip is Paramount boss Brad Grey accompanied by Gail Berman and Rob Moore. The entire Sony bunch will also be there (though I hope little-heard-from John Calley will be invited since the former boss turned producer is responsible for buying the Da Vinci Code novel for Sony in the first place). C’est fou.