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411 Box Office Report: Terminator: Dark Fate Falls Way Short But Wins The Weekend

November 3, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Terminator: Dark Fate Linda Hamilton

Terminator: Dark Fate can claim a win in this weekend’s box office battle, but they are clearly going to lose the war. The latest film in the long-running science fiction franchise took the #1 spot for the weekend but with disastrously low numbers, bringing in just $29 million. That’s well below even the moderate $35 million to $40 million that most were expecting it to do for the weekend, and even that number would have given the film a long road to get to profit.

The film’s start is, to be fair, slightly up from the $27 million start that Terminator: Genisys had in July of 2015. But that’s not exactly good news, particularly when you consider that this was supposed to be the franchise’s triumphant return with Linda Hamilton and James Cameron. Genisys also, while not a financial success, had strong results overseas that brought it to $432.2 million worldwide. Dark Fate doesn’t have that same thing going for it, having opened in several markets over the past few weeks and bringing in low numbers. Right now, the overseas take has it at $94.6 million, putting its worldwide total at $123.6 million with only Japan still left to open among major markets.

We could do a deep dive into a franchise like this, where there’s so much history including the last four entries (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines through Dark Fate) underperforming at the box office. But the truth is, this isn’t all that complicated. The franchise is largely considered to be damaged by moviegoers; Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, and Genisys were incrementally more hated from film to film. Cameron and Hamilton’s returns weren’t enough to bring audience enthusiasm back, nor were solid but not great reviews at a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes. The B+ CinemaScore is okay, but matches the scores for all of the films since Rise of the Machines so it’s not super-encouraging for the film’s legs.

There’s no way at this point that Dark Fate won’t lose money for Paramount Pictures. With a $185 million budget plus a hefty marketing spend, this film would need at least $500 million to break even. Right now, it seems likely to hit the $90 million mark hit by Genisys and maybe a touch more. There’s zero chance of the overseas numbers picking up enough to make up that difference, meaning this franchise may finally be dead (for now).

Coming in at #2 was Joker, which is continuing its amazing box office run. The DC Comics psychological thriller nailed down another $13.9 million, off 28% from last weekend. That brings the film up to a stellar $299.6 million domestically and $934 million worldwide. At this point, $325 million is not at all out of the running for the domestic total. That would put it on par with Suicide Squad ($325.1 million) and not far off from Aquaman ($335.1 million), both of which had way bigger budgets than Joker’s $55 million. It seems unlikely that the film will cross the $1 billion mark worldwide but will make it past $950 million, which is an incredible success.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is playing like a family film after its mediocre opening a couple of weekends ago, and is fighting its way to at least a breakeven if not profit. The Disney live-action sequel was down 37% to $12.2 million, bringing its totals to $84.3 million domestically and $383.2 million worldwide. Those are not great numbers, but far from a disaster for Disney even with the $170 million production budget plus P&A. Right now, it looks very likely to cross the $400 million worldwide mark that will have it at least close to breaking even. Its domestic total should end at around $105 million, and while this won’t be a hit no one’s going to lose sleep over its financials now.

Harriet blew past expectations to open at #4 with $12 million. The Focus Features biopic about Harriet Tubman was predicted to be in the mid-to-high single digits going into the weekend, but rode a wave of good reviews (72% on Rotten Tomatoes) to a decent Friday and then excelled throughout the weekend due to a rare A+ CinemaScore. $12 million is a great start for the film, which reportedly cost about $17 million. With the rave word of mouth being what it is, this one is expected to perform well in coming weeks, and could have a particularly lengthy run if star Cynthia Erivo earns an Oscar nod for Best Actress.

One thing Harriet is unlikely to have going for it, it must be said, are international grosses. Films about American history don’t traditionally play well overseas unless they’re true Oscar contenders like 12 Years a Slave. Bit that shouldn’t hurt this film too bad, which could reach $40 million to $45 million if it is handled right. That will be enough for a decent profit for Focus.

The Addams Family stayed strong again in its fourth week, down a mere 29% to $8.5 million. The film has defied expectations and brought its totals to $85.3 million domestically and $129.3 million worldwide, which makes it a big hit for MGM against a $40 million budget. The film should reach $100 million or more domestically.

Zombieland: Double Tap also had a good hold for its third weekend, down 38% to $7.4 million. The zombie comedy sequel now has $59.3 million domestically and $87.1 million worldwide. That’s pushing it well toward profit against a $42 million production budget and marketing. The final domestic gross is still on par for around $75 million.

The big surprise of the weekend was Countdown, which had a shockingly small drop from its opening weekend. The app-based horror film brought in $5.8 million, down 34% from its start. That’s way better than your average horror film’s hold. The film likely benefitted some from the weekend coming just after Halloween, and it should probably start drifting away quickly with next weekend, but right now it has $17.8 million domestically and $21.5 million worldwide against a $6.5 million budget. It should be able to end its run at around $30 million to $35 million.

On the other side of that equation was Black and Blue, which was off 52% in its second frame with $4.1 million. Ironically, this film had the horroresque drop when it should have had a drop closer to Countdown. The police action-thriller now has $15.4 million domestically and $15.6 million worldwide against a much bigger budget than Countdown at $12 million plus marketing. The film is now looking likely to end at around $25 million, which won’t be enough for profit.

Another bomb landed at #9, where Motherless Brooklyn landed with just $3.7 million. Warner Bros.’ Edward Norton-fronted crime drama was expected to open in the upper range of single digits, not the lower ones, and a $26 million budget didn’t leave much room for error. Here’s another drama that was damned by okay but not great reviews (61% on RT) and just a general lack of awareness, as Warner Bros. didn’t properly promote the film. Motherless Brooklyn isn’t likely to have much international success, and here in the states it seems like a $12 million maximum domestic total. That makes this a money loser.

You can add Arctic Dogs to that list too. The animated film was DOA with $3.1 million. This was a far less expensive project than most CGI-animated movies these days at “just” $50 million, but there’s no chance of this even coming within visual range of making that back. Its domestic total will likely be around $10 million and Entertainment Studios is taking a bath here.

Next weekend sees more new releases jump into the frey. Doctor Sleep should win the weekend with a $25 million to $30 million start, while holiday rom-com Last Christmas is aiming for around $15 million to $20 million. Roland Emmerich’s war film Midway is hoping for around $10 million to $15 million, and the John Cena-led comedy Playing With Fire should hit high single digits.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Terminator: Dark Fate – $29 million ($29 million total)
2. Joker – $13.9 million ($299.6 million total)
3. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – $12.2 million ($84.3 million total)
4. Harriet – $12 million ($12 million total)
5. The Addams Family – $8.5 million ($85.3 million total)
6. Zombieland: Double Tap – $7.4 million ($59.3 million total)
7. Countdown – $5.9 million ($17.8 million total)
8. Black and Blue – $4.1 million ($15.4 million total)
9. Motherless Brooklyn – $3.7 million ($3.7 million total)
10. Arctic Dogs – $3.1 million ($3.1 million total)