8th UPDATE (Wednesday): My latest lalogo.gif column,  The Passion of the Cash, is all about how I’ve seen the future of Hollywood, and it is foreign, as demonstrated by the craptastic Da Vinci Code

7th Update (Sunday): Sony Pictures told me exclusively this morning that Da Vinci Code earned $224 million worldwide, making it the second biggest opening weekend of all time worldwide. (The only movie that did better was Star Wars 3, the last of the prequels, with $254 mil). That DVC figure broke down to $147 mil internationally, and $77 mil domestically. The studio told me that the film is the No. 1 all-time opening weekend internationally. DVC was #1 in predominantly Catholic countries Italy and Spain, and #1 or #2 in every South American territory. Sony execs explained to me that the reason for the huge success is that “young people” including teens were going to see the film worldwide as well as adults. But all audience segments were doing well, even infrequent filmgoers. “We are absolutely thrilled with the worldwide opening of this movie and it’s a true international event,” the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, Amy Pascal, told me Sunday morning. “And we got some very good reviews. Mainstream critics liked the the movie all over the world; it just wasn’t all negative.” According to Box Office Mojo, DVC ranked #13 on the all-time U.S. opening weekend, behind Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. But, internationally, DVC swamped Passion. Interestingly, domestically, DVC dipped slightly on Saturday compared to Friday, $27 mil compared to $29 mil, and Sunday’s haul was projected at $20 mil. Meanwhile, U.S. box office was strong overall: Dreamworks/Paramount’s Over the Hedge took in $37 mil for the opening weekend, which wasn’t far behind Dreamworks’ last big cartoon hit, Madagascar, which had a 2005 opening of $47 mil from 4,131 theaters, but that was over Memorial Day weekend.

6th Update (Sunday): Da Vinci Code has Japan’s 5th biggest opening day ever on Saturday behind only the three Harry Potters and Howl’s Moving Castle (the anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki). DVC opened there ahead of the Star Wars prequels, SpidermanNarnia, etc.

5th Update (Saturday): *Box Office Mojo is calling Da Vinci Code‘s Friday opening the 12th best opening day gross on its all-time box office list, 32nd best single day gross (that ranking should move higher after Saturday’s take is calculated).*

4th Update (Saturday): *I’ve learned Da Vinci Code “earned just under $30 million” for Friday U.S. box office. That number smashes Sony estimates for the pic’s domestic gross. Foreign box office reports continue to soar. Meanwhile, I’m told rival studios are predicting Da Vinci Code‘s domestic weekend take will approach $80 million. On Saturday morning, Box Office Mojo reported Friday’s DVC haul at $29.5 mil. Meanwhile, reports say the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, pastor of Southern California’s Crystal Cathedral and host of TV’s weekly Hour of Power program, went to a screening and is publicly recommending DVC. “As long as people talk about The Da Vinci Code, they’ll discover the divinity code of who Jesus Christ is,” Schuller told reporters. The No. 2 movie, Dreamworks/ Paramount’s Over the Hedge, took in $10.9 mil domestically Friday. That’s below Dreamworks’ previous cartoon hit, Madagascar.*

3rd Update (Saturday): *First U.S. numbers: I’m told Regal Union Square in Manhattan was virtually sold out Friday, with returns of more than $56,000. Here are more anecdotes I’ve learned: Da Vinci Code earned 2 million euros ($2.6 million) on its opening night in Italy, nearly double the take of Italy’s previous top film, Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful. Italian news agencies reported record lines at theatres around the country for the film. To see Da Vinci Code at the Toho Cinema Roppongi in Tokyo, Japan, moviegoers have to wait for the Sunday 3 a.m. show, because everything else is sold out. The widest Hollywood release ever in China, the pic is having one of the biggest opening day box office returns for a non-Chinese film. In Taiwan, a typhoon was expected to hit, but changed course at the last minute: the result was a very strong Friday opening.*

2ND UPDATE (Saturday): *I’m told Friday U.S. box office “very strong” for Da Vinci Code and early estimates of $60 mil by the studio for the domestic gross “too low.”*

UPDATE (Friday): *Predominantly Catholic countries like Italy and Mexico close to breaking box office records. In Italy, Da Vinci Code seeing huge grosses, and, based on an exit poll there, 75 percent thumbs up, 15 percent neutral, and 10 percent not liking.*

I’m told Sony/Imagine’s The Da Vinci Code did “huge business” in Australia and New Zealand today (remember, they’re 24 hours ahead), “pretty much smash openings” across the board in every foreign territory it opened so far, “incredibly well” in parts of Europe except France, where there was a major soccer match on Day #1 but the box office bounced back on Day #2. Britain’s Sky News has been reporting good reaction from people coming out of screenings there. Same thing happened around the U.S.: for instance, TV news reports in Portland, Ore, and Miami Beach, Fla., are featuring quickie interviews with just-out-of-screening moviegoers and they’re loving it. (Do film critics matter any more?) Early reports say the matinees out of New York City were “giant-sized.” I’ve learned that Sony execs are “very happy.” As for the rotten reviews, I hear the Sony suits are taking the attitude that the critics are out of touch with the public and counting on Da Vinci Code to be reviewer-proof. After all, this movie is based on a book that sold 40+ million copies; flick qualifies for the “phenomenon” category, good or bad.

Meanwhile, I’m told that early reports show the other movie opening this weekend, Dreamworks/Paramount’s Over the Hedge, may only tally half as many receipts as Dreamworks’ last big cartoon hit, Madagascar (which had a 2005 opening of $47 mil from 4,131 theaters, but it was Memorial Day weekend). That means Sony’s counter-programming worries will be allayed.

BoxOfficeMojo.com today is predicting a $70 mil domestic opening weekend on 3,735 theaters. Remember that on May 14th, before the reviews came in, I told you that Sony was looking for a $60 million-$70 million weekend from about 3,600 theaters, and expected the first 11 days including Memorial Weekend to gross $125 million from U.S. moviegoers. The studio figured to end the summer with an overall worldwide haul of $500 million. (I’d also heard about advance sell-outs in predominantly Catholic countries like Italy, Mexico and Spain. I’d also learned that worrying Sony was this: since The Da Vinci Code is primarily an adult movie, some of those adults may be siphoned off not by falling MI3, or flailing Poseidon but by Paramount/Dreamworks’ counter-programming of its big animated flick Over the Hedge. (BoxOfficeMojo.com predicts a first haul of $35.5 for Hedge in 4,059 theaters.) Plus, 20th Century Fox’s X-Men 3 opens over Memorial Weekend, and that’s a proven date night franchise.

Previous: Ebert/Roeper and Lumenick/NY Post Only Raves for Da Vinci Code So Far, Da Vinci Code’s Cannes World Premiere: French Say Oui! While Critics Say Non!, Catholic Moviegoers Overseas Defy Vatican and Sell Out Da Vinci Code In Advance, Hanks Writes Well (who knew?); His Da Vinci Code Tracks Huge, Will Da Vinci Code Faint From Vatican Heat?, Studios Throwing Money (Away) at Cannes