4 Reasons Why ‘Inferno’ Flamed Out at the Box Office

“Halloween is the death knell for new releases,” expert tells TheWrap

Inferno Tom Hanks Felicity Jones Box Office Flop Bomb
Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in "Inferno" (Sony)

The third installment in “The Da Vinci Code” series is not nearly as fiery among moviegoers as its title suggests.

Sony’s Columbia Pictures and Imagine Entertainment sequel “Inferno” opened soft over the weekend with an estimated $15 million in domestic box office receipts.

The only new widely released film in theaters, it came in shy of No. 1, falling behind second-weekend holdover Tyler Perry’s “Boo! A Madea Halloween” — which held strong at nearly $17 million. (Though Sony’s book-based sequel is performing nicely overseas, as it is close to hitting $150 million internationally.)

Trackers set the Ron Howard-directed movie starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones at $25 million domestically earlier last week — an optimistic forecast in retrospect.

So what went wrong?

1. There Was No Demand

Along the lines of Paramount’s “Jack Reacher” sequel that debuted to No. 2 last weekend, audiences weren’t clamoring for a followup to “Angels & Demons.” The sequel to “The Da Vinci Code” came out seven years ago and opened to $46.2 million. Too much time has passed since the last one to keep North American audiences hungry for more.

2. This Particular World Series Stole Some Spotlight

The longtime-losing Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians have captivated the public this weekend, said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “There is a bit of truth to that distraction, however. The truth is, this movie series has run its course,” he told TheWrap. “The buck stops here.”

3. Halloween Has a Losing Box Office History

“‘Inferno’ dared to do something most films outside the horror genre find unfathomable — open on Halloween weekend,” said Bock. Traditionally, it is one of the slowest weekends in the calendar year. “Halloween is the death knell for new releases, which is why most studios don’t even bother,” added the analyst. “It’s the one weekend where people who don’t usually party all year actually partake in partying.”

4. It’s the Worst Reviewed of the Series

The movies based on Dan Brown’s popular books have never been well received by critics. “Angels & Demons” has a 37 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, while “The Da Vinci Code” earned only 25 percent among critics aggregated by the site. Still, it can’t help that “Inferno” has only a 20 percent score, with at least one reviewer deeming it “one of the worst movies of the year.”

Sony knew most of this going in, according to a source at the studio who spoke to TheWrap. The studio concentrated on building “Inferno” overseas, where the series has historically gained more than 70 percent of its box office grosses. The production budget was also slashed in half, compared to the series’ two prior releases, to accommodate the movie’s history of diminishing returns. But the source at Sony also admitted to facing “a few tough breaks” this go around.