Box Office: Tom Hanks’ ‘Inferno’ Opens Cool, Heads for Disappointing $17 Million Opening in U.S.

Tom Hanks’ “Inferno” is heading for a soft domestic opening in the $17 million range, well below recent forecasts, early estimates showed Friday.

Inferno” opened with only $800,000 at 2,874 locations in Thursday night preview showings to trail the $1.3 million Thursday number from “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” a week earlier. First estimates Friday showed an opening day in the range of $5.2 million to $6.2 million.

“Inferno” looks likely to be the lowest performer as a U.S. box office leader since the second weekend of “Don’t Breathe” led the Sept. 2-4 frame with $15.8 million during the Labor Day weekend.

The second weekends of “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” and Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” were both generating about $3 million to $4 million on Friday for weekends in the $11 million to $13 million range.

Sony had been looking at a debut weekend of $20 million to $25 million for “Inferno” at 3,576 locations and rival studios avoided launching on the pre-Halloween frame.

“Inferno” is the third adaptation of Dan Brown’s series of books about symbologist Robert Langdon. Hanks and director Ron Howard previously partnered on “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons,” which showed plenty of drawing power with a combined $1.2 billion globally.

“Inferno” is now pegged to open with less than a quarter of the 2006 launch of “The Da Vinci Code” with $77.1 million and less than  half of the $46.2 million debut of “Angels & Demons’” in 2009. Both those films opened in the midst of summer blockbuster season.

Hanks delivered better-than-expected grosses earlier this fall with “Sully,” which opened at $35 million for Warner Bros. and remains the top domestic performer of the season with more than $121 million.

“Inferno” cost $75 million to produce, half of what the studio spent making “Angels & Demons” seven years ago. Reviewers have been unimpressed with “Inferno,” which carries a 21% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Moviegoing may be held down by the World Series, with three games scheduled this weekend for the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, and by Halloween celebrations plus coverage of the Presidential election.

 “Inferno” has already passed the $100 million milestone in 64 international markets for Sony in its first ten days. Howard and Brian Grazer are producing. David Koepp wrote the script, as he did for “Angels & Demons.” It opens in China, Japan and South Korea this weekend.

The two previous installments — both set in Europe — grossed more than 70% of their worldwide take from international markets, where “The Da Vinci Code” took in $540 million and “Angels & Demons” totaled $352 million.

The movie opens with a mysterious death, followed by Hanks’ Robert Langdon character being awakened in an Italian hospital with amnesia, thanks to a bullet to the head. It turns out that a madman is trying to wipe half the world’s population, and kill Langdon.

Langdon teams up with a doctor — played by Felicity Jones — in hopes that she will help him recover his memories and stop the madman’s plot. Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Irrfan Khan also star.

“Boo! A Madea Halloween” and “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” captured first and second place on the box office charts last weekend, but both should drop more than 50% in their sophomore round in theaters. Lionsgate’s “Madea” easily won last weekend with $28.5 million, followed by Paramount’s “Jack Reacher” sequel with $22.9 million.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said that the box office — which has been lagging so far this season —  faces a challenge: “The World Series and the ubiquitous presidential election coverage will offer formidable distractions to the multiplex this weekend, but smart audiences will hopefully find time to indulge in this bounty of entertainment options.”

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