Six chapters into the Terminator franchise, and it might be judgment day for Arnold Schwarzenegger and company. Excuse the pun, but we might not be hearing the famous phrase “I’ll be back,” any time soon as “Terminator: Dark Fate” bombed falling short of expectations by thirty percent. Warner Bros. had another great weekend with their ongoing hit “Joker” continuing to rake in box office sales nearing the $1 billion mark worldwide.
Even though it didn’t fall into the traditional superhero movie, the Joaquin Phoenix starrer has been a huge win for Warner and DC Films. Only costing $60 million to produce, it will be bringing in over $500 million in profits which is much more than the Terminator franchise can say this time around. “Dark Fate” production and marketing cost came to about $200 million. Unless it’s able to have a strong comeback, the movie could lose the studio $100 million. The loss would be split among Paramount, Skydance and Disney (through 20th Century Fox), but if the film could earn over $450 million it could just break even.
“Were we hoping for more? Of course,” Kyle Davies, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution, said by phone on Sunday. “But we are proud of the movie. It truly delivers big action and big thrills. We tried to understand and honor what the fans wanted.”
Despite generally favorable reviews and the return of star Linda Hamilton and producer James Cameron, “Terminator: Dark Fate” has opened well below expectations at the box office. Studios on Sunday estimate that “Dark Fate” earned only $29 million from over 4,000 North American locations. The film from Paramount Pictures cost a reported $185 million to produce.
It was enough to win the top spot at the box office, but it’s a weak victory for the franchise. Although “Dark Fate,” which was directed by “Deadpool’s” Tim Miller, received much better reviews (currently at 69% on Rotten Tomatoes) and was praised for being a return to form to Cameron’s original films, it opened just slightly ahead of 2015′s roundly derided “Terminator: Genisys.”
“These big brands carry with them huge expectations, often unrealistic expectations,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “It wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm for the stars and filmmakers.”
Internationally, “Dark Fate” did much better, earning $72.9 million from 48 markets. Fox International, not Paramount, is handling international distribution, excluding China.
There appeared to be little good will left for the franchise. “Terminator Genisys” was a terrible movie. Its 2009 franchise predecessor, “Terminator Salvation,” also received abysmal reviews. Ticket buyers will only put up with so much disappointment before they move on, especially at a time when entertainment options — Fortnite, Netflix, TikTok, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV Plus — are plentiful.
“The gang is back and they’re better than ever is not enough,” David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a movie consultancy, said in an email.
Paramount, Skydance Media and Disney each shouldered about 30 percent of the cost for “Terminator: Dark Fate,” with the balance paid by the Chinese conglomerate Tencent.
Skydance, run by the Oracle heir David Ellison, and Paramount, part of the Viacom empire, can’t seem to catch a break. “Terminator: Dark Fate” marked their second big-budget flop in four weeks, with “Gemini Man,” starring Will Smith, also failing to connect with ticket buyers.
Second place went to “Joker,” which added $13.9 million, bringing its global earnings to $934 million in just five weeks in theaters. In terms of the top-grossing superhero films of all time, “Joker” has surpassed “Spider-Man 3 “($895 million) to rank as No. 13, not adjusted for inflation. It’s also the fourth-top grossing DC title of all time behind “Aquaman” ($1.14 billion), “The Dark Knight Rises” ($1.08 billion) and “The Dark Knight” ($1 billion), unadjusted.
Village Roadshow and Bron Studios each have a 25 percent stake in the pic.
“Joker” is the highest-grossing Warners release ever in 10 markets and highest-grossing DC title in 36. It has been the No. 1 film in Europe for five weeks, and has topped “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” to become the highest-grossing Warners movie and DC film in the Latin American region.
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” landed in third place in its third weekend with an additional $12.2 million. The Angelina Jolie-led sequel has grossed $84.3 million in North America.
One bright spot of the weekend, which is down nearly 19% from last year when “Bohemian Rhapsody” opened, is Focus Features’ “Harriet,” which is the first film ever made about Harriet Tubman. Starring Cynthia Erivo in the title role, “Harriet” performed better than expected, earning $12 million from just over 2,000 theaters to take fourth place. The film scored a coveted A+ CinemaScore from audiences, who were primarily female (62 and over the age of 35 (59%). African Americans also made up a significant portion of the audience (49%) according to exit polls.
“It’s really heartwarming and gives you a lot of faith that there are still a lot of people who want to see stories about real life superheroes,” said Focus Features distribution president Lisa Bunnell. “There’s a real feeling of love for this movie. I think it’s inspirational for people to see.”
Focus did outreach to faith-based groups and educators and has seen enormous success with group sales as a result.
Other newcomers struggled to find that kind of enthusiasm this weekend. Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn” opened in ninth place to $3.7 million, while the animated “Arctic Dogs” took 10th with $3.1 million. “Motherless Brooklyn” collected $3.7 million. Mid-budget movies — “Motherless Brooklyn” cost about $25 million to make, not including marketing — have been sputtering in theatrical release, prompting studios to avoid them entirely or reroute them to streaming services.
One of the highest profile new films of the weekend, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” does not have any box office numbers to report, however, because Netflix declines to provide numbers for its theatrical releases. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, the film which opened in limited release before hitting Netflix on Nov. 27 is expected to be a major Oscars contender.
“With all eyes on ‘The Irishman,’ it’s unfortunate that we don’t have numbers on it,” Dergarabedian said.
It’s especially true considering that other smaller release films with awards buzz continue to perform well. “Parasite” took in 2.6 million in its fifth weekend “Jojo Rabbit,” in its third weekend, added $2.4 million from 256 screens and “The Lighthouse,” also in weekend three, grossed $2 million from 978 locations.
North American Box Office
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
- “Terminator: Dark Fate,” $29 million ($72.9 million international).
2. “Joker,” $13.9 million ($37 million international).
3. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” $12.2 million ($40.5 million international).
4. “Harriet,” $12 million.
5. “The Addams Family,” $8.5 million ($25.9 million international).
6. “Zombieland: Double Tap,” $7.4 million ($7 million international).
7. “Countdown,” $5.9 million ($1.1 million international).
8. “Black and Blue,” $4.1 million.
9. “Motherless Brooklyn,” $3.7 million.
10. “Arctic Dogs,” $3.1 million.
Worldwide Box Office
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. “Terminator: Dark Fate,” $72.9 million.
2. “Better Days,” $47.8 million.
3. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” $40.5 million.
4. “Joker,” $37 million.
5. “Weathering With You,” $26.2 million.
6. “The Addams Family,” $25.9 million.
7. “Das Perfekte Geheimnis,” $11.6 million.
8. “Abominable,” 7.8 million.
9. “Zombieland: Double Tap,” $7 million.
10. “Kim Jiyoung: Born 1982,” $6.2 million.