“There was a cool quotient to it,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of domestic distribution. “It was fresh and different and unlike anything people had seen, and certainly younger audiences embraced that part of it.” Sony said the movie version of Dan Brown’s book, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, was boosted by several other factors as well. “I really believe it is absolutely the fact that this is an amazing book, you have this incredible filmmaker in Ron Howard and a cast led by one of our most beloved actors,” Bruer said. “It’s also a film that provokes conversation and people are talking about it.” Online ticket selling service Fandango Inc. surveyed thousands of its customers about the movie and 74 percent of those who bought advance tickets had already read the book and 93 percent said the controversy surrounding the movie did not affect their impressions of it. “It’s just one of those rare phenomenons that happens with a successful book that is translated to screen,” Gray said. “We’ve seen if happen before with the `Harry Potter’ movies and this seems to be similar to that.” Fandango also reported that only 64 percent of those surveyed rated the film very good or excellent, 55 percent said they would definitely recommend it to a friend, and 30 percent said the movie was better than they expected. Reaction to the movie, according to the Fandango poll, was about the same among those who had read the book and those who had not. Bucksbaum expects “Da Vinci” to continue to perform strongly through the upcoming Memorial Day weekend despite what will be tough competition from Friday’s release of “X-Men: The Last Stand.” “While this turned out to be the kind of front-loaded movie everyone wants to see the first weekend, it’s also an adult movie and those tend to last longer,” he said. [email protected] (818)713-3758160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It didn’t play so well in Cannes, but “The Da Vinci Code” is a worldwide smash virtually everywhere else and box office experts said Monday that the controversy surrounding the religious thriller was the biggest reason behind its stunning $232 million worldwide opening weekend success – $8 million more than originally estimated. Although the movie is based on a blockbuster novel, widespread bad reviews and a stunningly cold reception at the Cannes Film Festival last week had some painting “Da Vinci” a potential box office failure. The harsh early reception followed well-publicized protests from Christian groups and the Vatican itself because the movie suggests Jesus fathered a child with Mary Magdalene and that the Catholic Church conspires to keep the secret at all costs. “The controversy arose from Christian groups complaining about the content of the movie and the movie is about Christians going to great lengths to cover things up,” said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo. “When you have the Vatican proposing action against the movie, it plays into the whole mystique of `The Da Vinci Code.”‘ AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsIn heavily Catholic Italy and Spain, the film grossed $11 million in each country, all-time records. Both France and Japan also grossed just over $11 million each. The movie was No. 1 in the more than 91 foreign territories where “Da Vinci” debuted, including the United Kingdom ($17.1 million), Germany ($13.3 million), South Korea ($8.8 million), Mexico ($6.35 million) and China ($4.7 million). The domestic portion of that total was $77.1 million, the biggest opening of any movie released so far in 2006. More than half of the audiences in the U.S. and Canada were under the age of 30, which was surprisingly high considering it was considered to be an older-skewing film. “When controversy is so deep and heavy, the younger crowd is going to turn out and see it,” said Robert Bucksbaum, president of the box office tracking firm Reel Source Inc. “The hype surrounding all the controversy really brought the young people out.” Sony Pictures Entertainment, which released the movie worldwide, acknowledged the huge boost the movie got from younger moviegoers who have not historically been as interested in such serious, adult fare.