LOS ANGELES — Ron Howard's "Inferno," which sees Tom Hanks resuming his role as a globe-trotting professor, should top the box-office charts this weekend as the sole new release in theaters. But a No. 1 opening does not always a successful movie make.
The Sony Pictures sequel to "Angels & Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code" is expected to gross $20 million to $25 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys.
Though that will probably be enough to topple last week's chart topper "Boo! A Madea Halloween," it amounts to a soft start for a franchise film that cost $75 million to produce after tax breaks, according to Sony. Also troubling is that the new picture is likely to do much worse domestically than its predecessors.
"The Da Vinci Code," based on Dan Brown's blockbuster novel about an academic who uncovers a vast religious conspiracy, opened with an impressive $77 million in U.S.-Canada ticket sales in 2006, on its way to a total of $217 million. That made a sequel a no-brainer for Sony. However, the 2009 follow-up "Angels & Demons" performed 40 percent worse in its debut weekend with $46 million in receipts — leading to a $133 million tally.
Despite Hanks' box-office appeal, weak reviews and waning interest in the franchise don't bode well for the third installment, which seems poised to continue the pattern of decline.
Sony Pictures is hoping the international haul will ease some of the pain. The movie has collected about $100 million in 10 days from countries including Russia, Mexico and Italy. The studio filmed the project in far-flung European locations including Venice and Florence in Italy; Budapest, Hugary; and Istanbul, Turkey.
Another positive is that the latest installment carried a lower budget than the previous two films. "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons" cost $125 million and $150 million to make, respectively.
"This kind of international performance gives us strong momentum as we open domestically and continue to roll out in some of the most highly anticipated international markets this weekend," Josh Greenstein, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures, said in a statement.
The film will probably be the latest disappointment for Sony and its Columbia Pictures unit, which has suffered from a lack of global franchises other than Spider-Man and James Bond. However, the studio has posted a handful of recent profitable hits including "Don't Breathe" and "The Shallows." Sony is ranked No. 5 at the domestic box office out of the six major studios, ahead of Paramount Pictures.
Cinema owners have been contending with a fall movie season largely bereft of blockbusters. The industry is all but certain to find some much needed relief next week, when Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel Studios unleashes its latest comic book movie "Doctor Strange," a visually inventive movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
The overall box office for the U.S. and Canada is up 3.5 percent this year with $9.08 billion in revenue, according to entertainment data firm ComScore. The increase is partly due to ticket price inflation and a stronger first half of the year.