‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Is Weekend Box Office King with $29 Million but Underperforms, Too

     November 3, 2019

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It was the best of times and worst of times for Paramount/Skydance/Fox tentpole Terminator: Dark Fate as it both won the box office during its opening weekend but also tanked hard with only $29 million earned domestically. It’s a jaw-dropping turn for the 35-year-old action franchise which featured the return of stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside franchise newcomers Mackenzie DavisNatalia Reyes, and Gabriel Luna in director Tim Miller‘s vision on the continuing Terminator story, which ignores other sequels and picks up after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Here are the cold, hard facts: Terminator: Dark Fate opened in 4,086 theaters this weekend across the nation. Per theater, the movie averaged $7,097. Overseas, Dark Fate brought in $72.9 million, reflecting the total earnings from 48 markets. Among the top markets were China ($28M), Korea ($10M), the United Kingdom ($7), France ($6M), and Russia ($4M). This brings the new Terminator flicks global opening weekend total to $101.9 million. So sure, Dark Fate zoomed past adjusted Saturday predictions of a $27 million opening weekend (earlier in the week, predictions hovered around $30 to $40 million) and a $101.9 million global total seems impressive, it’s very much a troubling start for the latest installment in a popular action franchise.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Terminator: Dark Fate will have to cover a lot of ground now, perhaps more than could have been imagined by the studio, when in the coming weeks. Although a specific number is unconfirmed, Dark Fate‘s budget is somewhere in the $185 to $196 million range. Do a quick bit of math and that means, in its opening weekend, domestically speaking Dark Fate made somewhere between 14.7% to 15.6% of its budget back; for my money, that’s a grim opening for a legacy franchise, even with overseas totals serving up a big boost. When it comes to comparing Terminator: Dark Fate‘s domestic opening weekend with previous Terminator sequel domestic opening weekends, it sits between Terminator Genisys and Judgment Day. Back in June 2015, Genisys made $27 million; Judgment Day made $31.7 million; Terminator Salvation made $42 million back in 2009; last but not least (and certainly most surprisingly), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines clocked in at $44 million in its 2003 opening weekend.

So, what happened here? While it would be difficult to land on one singular pathology for Dark Fate‘s big opening weekend stumble, there are a couple options to consider even if we may never know the exact answer. The first would be that audiences have been burned too many times before with previous sequels. Aside from Judgment DayTerminator sequels have been regarded with mixed feelings from fans as they’ve attempted to build out the world and complex storyline of the franchise. The second could be that audiences are tired altogether with the Terminator world, similarly to fellow aging action franchises Rambo, which released a new and final installment that was met with weak box office results and left theaters still in the red.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Another possibility is perhaps something directly tied to the film itself, with the results of clashes between Miller and James Cameron, who returned as a producer, in the editing room in post-production. Cameron was candid in our recent interview with him about how his input on the final cut of Dark Fate was met with some strong opposition and he even deemed the first cut “pretty rough.” Then again, perhaps it’s the time of year this movie opened. Past sequels were released in the summer (read: May/June/July) window, with Dark Fate the first installment to in the franchise to get a fall release date since The Terminator debuted in October 1984. Dark Fate is being released in a fall dead zone, so to speak, as the buzz of Halloween wanes and the high of the Thanksgiving/Black Friday box office is still a few weeks away. Right now, Dark Fate has a long road ahead if it wants to get into the same ballpark as the global totals of previous Terminator sequels (in the $370-520 million range).

The rest of this weekend’s box office panned out in a relatively predictable fashion. Newcomers HarrietMotherless Brooklyn, and the animated flick Arctic Dogs all made it into the top 10. The Cynthia Erivo-led Harriet came in at number four with a $12 million domestic opening. Edward Norton‘s directorial debut Motherless Brooklyn nabbed $3.65 million here in the U.S., averaging $2,720 per theater across 1,342 locations. As for Arctic Dogs, which features the voice talents of Jeremy Renner and Heidi Klum, came in at number 10 with $3.1 million pocketed domestically.

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Image via Warner Bros.

Joker reclaimed its number two spot in the box office chart this weekend, experiencing a 28% dip in earnings as it raked in $13.9 million stateside. As for Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil observed a 37% slip in domestic earnings with $12.2 million earned across 3,820 theaters. The sequel to 2014’s live-action Maleficent brought in another $40 million from a total of 56 international markets, bringing its three-week global total to $383.2 million. Holding strong at the middle of the box office chart are The Addams Family and Zombieland 2: Double Tap, which earned $8.5 million and $7.35 million domestically, respectively.

As we ponder where the Terminator: Dark Fate trained derailed and prepare to watch what will no doubt be a curious theatrical run unfold, we are also preparing for the arrival of some big movies. Debuting on Friday, November 8 is Doctor SleepLast ChristmasMidway, and Playing With Fire. Each movie brings something new to the table and will be strong competition for similar films in the same genre. All in all, if you thought this weekend’s box office race was interesting, wait until you see how next weekend’s goes.

For more on Terminator: Dark Fate, check out our fun new interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton as well as our positive review of the movie. The November 1-3 weekend chart is below:

Rank

Title

Weekend

Total

1.

Terminator: Dark Fate

$29,000,000

$29,000,000

2.

Joker

$13,925,000

$299,611,992

3.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

$12,175,000

$84,324,711

4.

Harriet

$12,000,000

$12,000,000

5.

The Addams Family (2019)

$8,499,007

$85,295,007

6.

Zombieland 2: Double Tap

$7,350,000

$59,307,162

7.

Countdown

$5,850,000

$17,766,036

8.

Black and Blue

$4,050,000

$15,442,478

9.

Motherless Brooklyn

$3,650,000

$3,650,000

10.

Arctic Dogs

$3,100,000

$3,100,000

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