This weekend, Paramount/Skydance Media/Fox’s Terminator: Dark Fate opens in what is hoped as a complete re-invigoration of the franchise, bringing the pic back to its original James Cameron roots.
After the PG-13 rated Terminator: Genisys four years ago registered the series’ lowest grosses stateside with $89.8M since the original 1984 pic’s $38.3M and was critically slammed at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, David Ellison’s Skydance is sincerely aiming to get this latest reboot right. If Cameron wasn’t going to direct due to the Avatar sequels, heck then he would produce and get a story by credit. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton were paired back up again, the latter who had been absent since the 1991 sequel, Terminator: Judgement Day (still the highest grossing title in the series both stateside with $205.9M and $520.9M worldwide). And they booked a hip helmer in Deadpool‘s Tim Miller who emphasized at San Diego Comic-Con that he was returning the pics back to their R-rated grit. Also key in the billing of Dark Fate was that out of six Terminator films, this one is technically a sequel to Judgement Day. Forget about everything in between.
After all these proper intentions, and keeping en vogue with recent tentpoles like Jurassic World and Star Wars in honoring what’s old while moving ahead with the new, the big question is whether Dark Fate even opens stateside.
Tracking sees $40M-plus, but there’s a chance this sixth pic could break down in the $30M range, which isn’t good. The first weekend of November has blossomed to be a rich period at the B.O. with 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok setting an opening record for the frame with $122.7M. Overseas looks better with Dark Fate adding 36 additional territories plus China on Friday for a $80M-$85M offshore gross bringing the pic’s global weekend on the high-end to $125M (PRC estimated to be between $40M-$45M). That would be an improvement upon Genisys‘ full global (first) weekend of $100.3M (unadjusted for currency fluctuations) and overseas weekend of $73.3M (a frame that was timed to domestic though technically its second weekend abroad then). Similar to Genisys, Dark Fate went first abroad before U.S./Canada in ten markets last weekend including France and UK, but it wasn’t pretty with $12.6M.
There are a handful of wildcards on the offshore front. Joker has been experiencing incredible holds and is particularly strong in Europe while he has yet to fully play out his hand, the Warner Bros. DC pic well on its way to $900M WW, already the highest-grossing R-rated pic ever. Also, some early resistance to Dark Fate has come from folks who wonder why another Terminator movie was necessary. With last weekend’s numbers not very encouraging, it remains to be seen if audiences will turn up.
What also needs to be taken into consideration is this is the first time that a Terminator movie has played the fall stateside since its original Oct. 26, 1984 title, and the first time since then that it has opened over a 3-day, non-holiday weekend. Terminator pics 2-5 always played a holiday weekend, typically debuting over 5-days, with most of them being over the July 4th holiday with the exception of Warner Bros.’ rogue Terminator Salvation set in a future with Christian Bale as John Connor which opened over Memorial Day weekend 2009. Genisys made $42.2M over 5 days, and $27M over 3 days and was bested over the July 4th weekend by the 3rd weekend of Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out ($29.8M) and Universal’s 4th weekend of Jurassic World ($29.2M). Tuesday night previews for Genisys were $2.3M at 2,527 venues, and was inched out by Magic Mike XXL which made $2.4M in previews. Stateside early shows for Dark Fate start on Halloween night at 7PM. People do see scary movies on Halloween. We’ll see if they’ll watch Dark Fate tomorrow. The pic will play in roughly 4,000 locations including Imax, Dolby and PLF locations. No 3D. On Rotten Tomatoes, Dark Fate is 67% fresh, well ahead of Genisys’ 27% Rotten, and the fourth-best critically rated in the franchise with Terminator having a perfect RT score of 100%, followed by Judgement Day at 93% fresh and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines at 69% fresh.
Dark Fate reportedly cost $185M with Paramount-Skydance-Fox each splitting a third of the budget with Tencent handling China at a 10% exposure.
Elsewhere in U.S./Canada, Joker should have the best hold next to Maleficent 2, -35% to -50% (or $12.5M to $9.7M). Focus Features’ Harriet is looking at $8M-$9M, Warner Bros’ Edward Norton-directed passion noir Motherless Brooklyn is seeing $5M-$6M, while Entertainment Studios’ animated feature Arctic Dogs will file $4M-$5M at 2,844 venues (no Thursday night previews). Harriet about the American abolitionist is booked at 2,000 theaters and will have Thursday night previews at 7PM. Motherless Brooklyn, based on the Jonathan Lethem novel about a detective with Tourette syndrome who seeks to uncover the mystery behind his mentor’s murder, is booked at 1,332 theaters with shows starting Friday. Pic cost $26M before P&A with Warner’s exposure at less than 25%.
Today, South Korea opened in Dark Fate‘s overseas suite. Other notable countries bowing include Russia, Mexico, Indonesia, Italy. Not kicking off this weekend are Japan, Taiwan, Poland and Norway.
The clear comp abroad for Dark Fate is, natch, Genisys. What’s more, its China bow was on a Sunday in late August so the opening there is difficult to factor. In the new markets going this session (and not including China) the like-for-like on Genisys is about $65M at today’s rates. Total global for Dark Fate, including last weekend’s overseas holdovers, will stand in the $130M-$140M range by Sunday.
China was the lead international market on Genisys, finaling at $113M (unadjusted). Press screenings have been held for Dark Fate and the early Douban score is 7.9 (Genisys had a 6.9). But there is a lot of competition in the Middle Kingdom this session. Local pic Better Days, which had been a casualty of this summer’s censorship clampdown, had a terrific start last weekend at $85M and is already at $105M through Tuesday evening local time. Debuting this weekend is Japanese Oscar entry Weathering With You which made roughly $127M in its home country earlier this year and has a large IMAX component in China. Director Makoto Shinkai’s previous film, Your Name, made about $84M in the Middle Kingdom in 2016.
Dark Fate will also have a large Imax component, likely bigger than the animated Japanese movie. Overall local estimates are in the $40M-$50M range, but this remains a tough one to call.
Asia Pacific is still expected to be most muscular, while Latin America could also help prop up the grosses versus Genisys. Last weekend, Dark Fate went early in some areas to capitalize on upcoming holidays. This week, 67% of schools have been off in the UK while France also had kids out again.
Outside China, the top overall markets for Genisys were Korea, Japan, Russia and the UK. The movie finaled at $351M internationally (unadjusted) — the largest foreign B.O. ever for a Terminator movie, surpassing Judgment Day‘s $315M offshore take.
In terms of overseas travel, Schwarzenegger, Hamilton, Davis, Reyes, Luna and Miller participated in a press conference and premiere in Korea. In London, there was a photo call with Schwarzenegger, Hamilton, Miller, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna; and Schwarzenegger and Hamilton also stopped off on Graham Norton’s couch. At the Mexico City premiere were Hamilton, Miller, Reyes and Davis.