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"Da Vinci Code" leads Hollywood pack to Cannes

Written by: Staff
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LOS ANGELES, May 13 (Reuters) Last year it was the final instalment of ''Star Wars''. This year it is ''The Da Vinci Code''.

With an eye on the international box office, Hollywood studios are choosing the film festival in Cannes to launch some of their biggest blockbusters, and 2006 is no exception.

The studios want in, and, whatever the French may think of US cultural exports, Cannes these days is happy to comply in a bid to get the 'A'-listers on its famed red carpet.

The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks and France's Audrey Tautou, is one of the most eagerly awaited films for years, both because of the success of Dan Brown's novel and the outcry from Christians over the plot.

It will be joined by animated movie ''Over the Hedge'' featuring the voice of Bruce Willis, adventure ''X-Men: The Last Stand'' with Halle Berry, and the 9/11 movie ''United 93''.

''There are not that many events that put the attention on entertainment all over the world. This is certainly one of them -- if not the premiere event,'' said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment which is releasing Da Vinci.

Around 4,000 journalists cover the annual extravaganza of film, glamour and non-stop parties that draws 30,000 industry executives and thousands of tourists who line the red carpet for a glimpse of their on-screen idols.

Blake said that within 48 hours of the movie's opening night, it would be playing at theatres in around 90 per cent of the world.

''These types of releases make the need to do something global even more important than in years before,'' he added.

DreamWorks Animation marketing chief Terry Press said that being chosen to screen at Cannes implies artistic merit for a film, which helps attract audiences. The company premiered its ''Shrek'' movies at Cannes in past years.

''Everybody is trying to be heard above the din these days, and Cannes can make a very loud noise,'' she said.

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