Moviegoers liked the film version of the novel that has stirred controversy among Christians.

LEWISTON – While Catholic protesters carried “blasphemy” signs in the rain, moviegoers lined up to see to “The Da Vinci Code” Friday.

Gary and Lucille Tetreault of Auburn were part of the group that filled the first matinee of opening day at Flagship Cinema. The husband and wife, both Catholics, had read the book and liked it.

Unlike the people outside – who said they hadn’t read the hugely popular book – the Tetreaults said they looked forward to the controversial murder mystery. And they didn’t worry about their faith.

“It’s a work of fiction,” Gary Tetreault said. “You have to take it in that light.”

And the movie?

“It was every bit as good as we hoped,” Lucille Tetreault said. “It was so exciting.”

The two and a half hour movie, like the book, begins with a murder inside the Louvre museum in Paris.

“Dear God,” gasps hero Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) when he first glimpses the corpse at the center of the mystery.

Within moments, a secret phone call tips him off that he’s the suspected murderer and the story takes off.

As he chases clues, details emerge of a conspiracy inside the Catholic Church. Its aim: to hide the truth that Jesus Christ married and had children.

The concept has drawn condemnation from many church groups.

Maine’s Catholic Church has asked parishioners to ignore the movie. The Rev. Ted Toppses, who leads Lewiston’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, is discouraging people from seeing it. And the Maine Christian Civic League is calling for a ban.

Paul Madore, a vocal conservative opponent of gay rights and abortion, led about a dozen protesters outside the Lewiston movie theater.

Signs described the book as an insult to Jesus Christ. As the projector started the first show, Madore stood outside and condemned the movie.

“This movie tells the world that whatever is sacred as the Gospel is a lie,” Madore said, Nearby, local Catholics prayed the Rosary as cars splashed past.

“I feel so strongly about this, I’m standing in the rain,” said Margaret Marcotte of Lewiston. She learned about the book and the movie from a Christian cable TV channel, she said.

“I know that there are many mistakes in the movie,” she said, “And that’s not OK with me.”

Ara Minta of Lewiston passed the protesters on her way into the movie.

Drawn to the $125 million film by its controversy, Minta said she found the movie entertaining but “a little slow.”

Her passion was preserved for the protesters.

Though many of the story’s critics argue that author Dan Brown blurred the line between fact and fiction, Minta said she needed no help figuring out that the story was made up.

She questioned the faith of the Christians with the signs.

“What are those people so afraid of?” Minta said. “It’s fake.”

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