Inferno a Domestic Flop; Box Office on Life Support
By John Hamann
October 30, 2016
The scariest thing at the box office this weekend is the non-existent ticket sales.
Yes, it is an "ouch" weekend, an ugly one, put upon us by a streak of questionable releases, an odd calendar configuration, and one of the busiest times of the sports season. Halloween parties are abound, and with no new horror titles at the box office, the pressure was on Tom Hanks' and Ron Howard’s Inferno, the third film in the Robert Langdon saga. Returns for this franchise have been dipping since The Da Vinci Code opened to $77 million a decade ago. Its international flavor hasn’t softened, though, so eyes are on the overseas box office as Marvel’s Doctor Strange also gets moving offshore.
Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween finishes in a surprise first place, as it leaves Inferno in an embarrassing second. After opening to $28 million last weekend, and a 25% lift from Friday-to-Saturday in the last frame, Mr. Perry seems to have a fair size hit on his hands. In its second frame, Boo! earned a healthy $16.7 million, down a very respectable 42%. It’s interesting that the only other Madea title to not drop more than 50% in its second weekend was A Madea Family Christmas, which fell 48% the weekend before Christmas in 2013. Boo! cost only $20 million to make, and now has a gross to date of $52 million, and should finish as the second biggest Madea film to date, behind only Madea Goes to Jail, which earned $90 million at the domestic box office.
Inferno, our second place film, was supposed to open to as much as $25 million, and considering Boo! opened to $28 million last weekend, it should have been a landslide. We knew even $20 million for Inferno was out of the question as early as Thursday, as previews failed to earn even $1 million, coming in at $880,000. That figure told the story of the weekend before it began, as the box office had all of its bets on Inferno since there were no other wide openers this weekend.
The soon to be historic Cubs/Indians World Series game would have cut in to the box office on Friday and Saturday, as did Halloween parties and the kickoff to NBA season as well. All of that competition pushed the combined Thursday/Friday number down to only $5.6 million, and put the Sony release at risk of not finishing at number one, which frankly is a terrible embarrassment for Sony, who put a heavy marketing push forward. The film itself cost $75 million to make, and the marketing likely cost that much as well, so Sony ends up with a lot riding on this one. A domestic flame out wasn’t going to help matters.
The rest of the weekend did not improve the fortunes of Inferno. Over the weekend, Inferno earned only $15 million from a very wide 3,576 venues, and the usual Hanks/Howard legs aren’t coming. Why? The movie is awful. At Rotten Tomatoes, only 35 critics out of a massive 168 reviewers found something to like, giving Inferno a very rotten rating of 21%. That’s worse than the hated Angels and Demons (37%) and worse than the even more hated The Da Vinci Code (25% fresh). On the Cinemascore front, book fans have been recorded for all three films, as Inferno’s B+ matches that of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. This is one of the issues with the Cinemascore process, as fans of the product skew these scores, the same way a couple of the Twilight films earned As.