Back in 2006, director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman – who had both won Oscars for their respective work on the 2001 biopic A Beautiful Mind – reunited to adapt author Dan Brown’s best-selling mystery novel The Da Vinci Code for the screen. Assuming the lead role of symbologist Robert Langdon was Tom Hanks, who had previously worked with Howard on the ’80s comedy Splash and the acclaimed ’90s astronaut drama Apollo 13. The film was a huge hit, earning $758 million worldwide on a $125 million production budget.
This naturally led to the 2009 sequel Angels & Demons, which brought back Howard, Goldsman, and Hanks to their respective roles. The trio’s second effort was another winner, earning $485 million on a budget of $150 million. With that kind of success, it’s a tad surprising that it took nearly a decade for a third Dan Brown adaptation, in the form of Inferno, to get off the ground – although it’s not like Hanks or Howard having been hurting for work in the intervening years.
Unfortunately, this weekend’s stateside release of Inferno (the film has already been in theaters on the international market since mid-October) has received both some good news, and some bad news. The good news is that Inferno (per estimates from Deadline) will top the U.S. box office. The bad news is that Inferno’s estimated $15.5 million domestic opening total is far and away the weakest of the series so far, and just barely edges out Tyler Perry comedy Boo! A Madea Halloween for the top spot, with the latter being in its second weekend of release.
For comparison purposes, The Da Vinci Code opened to a robust $77 million domestic back in 2006, while Angels & Demons opened to a still respectable $46 million domestic. Even worse, Inferno’s $15.5 million total comes in below mid-week expectations that the sequel would earn around $18 million for the weekend. Luckily for Howard and Hanks, Inferno is not entirely a lost cause financially, as the film has already earned nearly $95 million from international markets. Inferno’s budget was a modest – when compared to its predecessors – $75 million, so it’s at least already made that back with a little extra on top.
Of course, for a studio blockbuster like this, marketing costs often meet or even exceed the actual budget, with the general rule of thumb being such a movie needs to at least double its budget to break even. While there’s certainly a chance that Inferno could reach the $150 million mark worldwide before it leaves theaters, the chances of it actually being profitable in that time are slimmer. Inferno is but the latest box office disappointment for director Howard, whose 2015 drama In the Heart of the Sea failed to even recoup its $100 million budget in theaters.
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