‘Inferno’ Is Director Ron Howard’s Fourth Domestic Flop


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Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in Ron Howard’s “Inferno,” which did poorly at North American movie theaters over the weekend.

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Jonathan Prime/Sony Pictures, via Associated Press

One of Hollywood’s most established directors, Ron Howard, an Oscar winner in 2002 for “A Beautiful Mind,” came up dreadfully short — again — at movie theaters in the United States and Canada over the weekend. Meanwhile, a director at the start of his career, Barry Jenkins, blew off the art-house doors with his “Moonlight.”

Mr. Howard’s “Inferno,” which cost Sony Pictures and LStar Capital roughly $75 million to make, not counting tens of millions in marketing costs, managed to sell only about $15 million in tickets during its first three days in theaters, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. Even more humiliating: “Inferno,” which stars Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones, was beaten by the second weekend of Tyler Perry’s low-cost “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” which repeated as the No. 1 multiplex draw.

“Boo,” the seventh installment in the Madea series, collected an estimated $16.7 million for Lionsgate, for a two-week total of $52 million.

“Inferno,” which received scorchingly bad reviews, has taken in a sturdy $135 million in two weeks of release overseas, Sony said on Sunday. But the North American movie market remains the world’s largest, and Mr. Howard has now delivered four domestic flops in a row. His last hit (“Angels & Demons”) was in 2009; since then, he has delivered “In the Heart of the Sea,” “Rush,” “The Dilemma” and, now, “Inferno.”

“We are proud of Ron’s film, and it’s clear from the numbers we’re seeing around the world that the film is striking a chord with global audiences,” Josh Greenstein, Sony’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution, said in an email.

On the dramatic opposite end of the scale, both in box office outcome and in financial risk, was Mr. Jenkins and “Moonlight,” a meditative film with a microscopic budget and no proven stars. In extremely limited release — just 36 theaters (compared with 3,576 for “Inferno”) — “Moonlight” took in nearly $1 million for the indie film company A24, a very strong result.

“Moonlight,” which follows a young black man as he struggles to find his place in the world, has received euphoric reviews. But its commercial success has not been guaranteed outside of the cinephile strongholds of New York and Los Angeles. A big test, at least in the eyes of A24, was turnout in suburban locations, and “Moonlight” succeeded, delivering big crowds (and solid exit polls) at suburban theaters in Georgia and near Washington, that attract large numbers of African-Americans.

Next weekend, “Moonlight” will expand to about 100 locations.

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