How ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Conked Out With $29M & Why ‘The Irishman’ Is A Strategic Opportunity – Sunday Box Office


4th Update/Writethru, Sunday AM after Saturday AM postIt’s not a good weekend for franchises, specifically old dusty ones like the sixth Terminator movie, Terminator: Dark Fate, which is seeing an apocalyptic future at the weekend domestic box office with $29M, per Paramount (rivals see it lower ,in the high $28M range).

That’s a terrible result for a planned Paramount/Skydance Media/Fox tentpole that reportedly cost $185M (some even say it was $196M). Saturday was estimated around $11M, +4% from Friday+previews’ $10.6M, but still nothing to celebrate. More bad news: Dark Fate is the lowest No. 1 opening for the first weekend of November since 2013’s Ender’s Game, which debuted to $27M (final domestic B.O. $61.7M).

And sorry, Paramount and Skydance, but this is your second back-to-back bomb, following the $138M Will Smith pic Gemini Man, which is set to lose $80M after a $160M global B.O. All of this Terminator blues has dragged down weekend tickets sales by 21% versus a year ago, with $115.6M, per Comscore. Last year, we had Fox’s ultimate 4x Oscar winner Bohemian Rhapsody opening to $51M.

Audiences around the world are also turning their noses ups: China’s box office came in at an estimated $28.2M, way under the $40M-$50M many were expecting and No. 2 in the market to local title Better Days which amassed $166.9M. Disney/Fox is reporting the overseas weekend at $72.9M in 48 territories, which is 14% less than the $85M some were seeing. Total global weekend is at $101.9M, 18% below the projected $125M weekend. Total global cume is at $123.6M. Japan is the only market left (Terminator: Genisys made $22M). Break-even for Dark Fate lies around $480M+ according to finance sources, and that’s with lofty Cameron-Arnold Schwarzenegger participations. Terminator, like his eyes, will likely see red.

terminator dark fate

While there has been scuttlebutt about an over-budget production, a set that went dark for a few days, script problems (it was punched out by a writers room that included Josh Friedman, Justin Rhodes and David S. Goyer), with creative battles between Tim Miller and producer James Cameron during editing, with the latter recently revealing to CinemaBlend at a recent roundtable junket that he had many battles with the Deadpool director, that “the blood is still being scrubbed off the walls from those creative battles. This is a film that was forged in fire. So, yeah. But that’s the creative process, right? I mean, my work with Robert on Alita was very different. Robert loved the script, loved everything, said, ‘I just want to make this movie. I want to make the movie the way you see it.’ I was like, ‘No, you got to make it your movie.’ I had the reverse experience with Tim, which is Tim wanted to make it his movie. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I kind of know a little about this world.’ So I had the matter and the anti-matter version of that producorial experience.” Despite all of this, we’ve seen great blockbusters birthed from on-set creative chaos, i.e. Star Wars: Rogue One ($1.06B) and Venom ($856M).

However, there are a few things, sources inform me, that terminated Dark Fate, despite all the good intentions here to revive the sixth film with the re-teaming of Linda Hamilton and Schwarzenegger and bringing Cameron back into the fold as a story-by guy and producer, even though his Lightstorm wasn’t a producer on the project like Alita: Battle Angel. 

Paramount did a great job at mounting excitement for this film out of Comic-Con and Cinemacon, enough to put initial projections in the $40M range. In fact, a recent hysterical ESPN hybrid trailer with NBA star (and new to LA) Kawhi Leonard, Schwarzenegger and Hamilton racked up 10M global views, I hear. However, Dark Fate was crushed by early breaking reviews, which spoiled that a key character in the franchise meets their death, thus sending the mythology of the film franchise and its fans into tailspin. Male trolls erupted, concerned that their prized Arnie series would now be relegated to three female leads.

Says Hollywood social media org RelishMix about the online chatter, “Fans and action sci-fi moviegoers who have seen the film are up in arms about major changes to the film series’ plot lines. It’s also worth observing that fans and moviegoers are all for strong female characters – when these characters are essential and interesting to the story. Like other recent remakes, spin-offs and re-imaginings, casual moviegoers are confused and disinterested in taking a classic film and simply re-shooting it with women in the lead roles, which is the perception of some related to Dark Fate, and the reality to still others who have seen early screenings.”

This, coupled with lackluster UK and France openings, took all the air out of the pic’s stateside and global projections. The post-Terminator 2: Judgement Day sequels had bastardized the series and its timeline enough, and Dark Fate wasn’t a fresh, exhilarating reboot, but more retread from earlier pics, but with largely new characters. Also, with Judgement Day raising the bar with its visual effects, Dark Fate has the same morphing body pony show. While critics enjoyed the return of Hamilton, giving the pic’s Rotten Tomatoes score a 69% fresh (which, sorry, isn’t that strong), stateside audiences have flat-out thumbed down Dark Fate, with 3 1/2 stars on PostTrak, a 78% percenticle and lackluster B+.

Still, for some film finance sources, a $40M start over 3-days was never going to be good enough for a pic this size. Plus, despite Dark Fate being ‘a bad’ movie, we’ve seen bad movies like Venom work at the box office before. “Everybody wanted to see that movie, nobody wanted to see Terminator: Dark Fate. The studios never took into consideration who their target audience was. Seriously, who wanted to see this old franchise?” opines one finance executive. While the over-25 crowd came out at 72%, Dark Fate failed to excite the 18-24 set with a 25% draw and 73% grade.

Furthermore, Dark Fate comes too soon on the heels of the last domestic-failed Terminator: Genisys, which stalled stateside with $89.8M. There was a play here with Dark Fate to expand the pic to Hispanic audiences, who turned out at 22% in US/Canada. However, note sci-fi action isn’t the type of genre that over-indexes in Latin American markets; it’s family pics and horror. Sci-Fi action features typically fare better in Asian markets, hence further misconception by those developing the movie.

Also, as we pointed out with Alita (some debate that movie broke even, while other finance sources contend it lost $53M off a $404.8M global B.O. and $170M production price tag), just because a movie is produced by Cameron means absolutely nothing. Everyone in town wants it to mean more. But to moviegoers, it doesn’t bring them to the theater. If you’re going to work with Cameron, have him fully committed as the director, writer and producer on the film. While he provided story notes and stepped in with editing, word is he didn’t step on set during production or meet the cast. If you can’t get Cameron, then entrust the entire franchise to one visionary auteur, script and helming, and not just any one director, but someone who is truly going to break it and rebuild it, a la Ryan Coogler or in a James Gunn kind of way, and rise the Terminator series from its tormented ashes. Dark Fate played best in the West, South-West along with Canada but even these numbers were clearly disappointing.

The Irishman

Two crime noir pics, which were propped heavily at the fall film festivals, Netflix’s Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Warner Bros.’ Edward Norton pic Motherless Brooklyn both opened this weekend, thus creating an interesting discussion of what’s meant for the screen and what’s meant for streaming. The former, a truncated theatrical release in eight NY and LA locations with unreported grosses, the other semi-wide with a very unfortunate low take of $3.65M. The Irishman runs at 3 1/2 hours at cost between $160M-$200M, Motherless Brooklyn at close to 2 1/2 hours cost $26M (before P&A with Warners’ exposure at less than 25%). Irishman was largely four-walled at its locations; we’ve heard that showtimes LA’s The Landmark have been selling out.

At the same time, the National Association of Theater Owners got the New York Times and the trades to bullhorn their side of the theatrical window debate, and how Netflix is a great violator of it, telling THR they “missed a strategic opportunity” in sidestepping a proper theatrical wide release for Irishman, and that the streamer is facing a headwind as theatrical studios like Disney and Warners launch their own streaming services, competing for filmmakers.

I do fly the flag for theatrical in this column, and the evidence is there, with recent $11B-plus grossing years, that the marketplace is still alive, not to mention the fact that filmmakers young and old want to see their movies on the big screen, even if it cost $100K to make the pic. And people do like to go to the movies, and they like to go out when the price of a $20 ticket is worth it. However, NATO’s statements on Friday come across without any tact. They told us, “Netflix had a unique chance to give The Irishman the wide, exclusive theatrical release it deserved, and put rivals on notice they were ready to compete for filmmakers. Instead, they put filmmakers on notice that a full theatrical release isn’t available with Netflix.”

First, how convenient to issue a response on Irishman‘s opening day, when we’ve known for the last couple of months what Netflix’s truncated theatrical-streaming plans were. Let’s give Netflix some credit and not kick them in the shins for engaging in theatrical talks in reaching across the table, meeting with NATO, and big exhibition.

Second, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that there are some films which won’t work at the box office, given their economics. Studio development execs continually huddle to debate what’s marquee enough. No one in town was going to make a 3 1/2 hour, slow-moving gangster movie with three near 80-year-old actors at a $160M-$200M budget.

Plus, what box office could be made from such an endeavor? Irishman would have likely tanked, and to bring it back to rival distributors, the pic’s release would have boxed some holdovers (maybe as many as two titles a venue) out of the theater. Meantime, despite Motherless Brooklyn not finding an audience, the pic was priced at a reasonable cost in regards to what its B.O. prospects would be.

Netflix in its $5B-plus grossing quarterly revenue, was able to make Irishman, while rival studios didn’t want to gamble. Again, we live in a world where producers have to be agnostic when it comes to the medium their films are made for. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not always about cinematic quality that gets your film on the big screen or streaming. It simply boils down to: who is going to make my movie? The Crazy Rich Asians filmmakers took Warners offer over Netflix to get their movie on the big screen. When Universal passed on the Dwayne Johnson-Gal Gadot-Ryan Reynolds Red Notice package because it was too expensive, it moved over to Netflix.

Furthermore,  NATO, it’s too soon to know if these streaming services at the respective studios will work out. Investors at the WarnerMedia day called HBO Max to the carpet on whether the new streaming service –which will have everything — will cannibalize their linear channels, and they have many, and how that will go down with cable operators. The AT&T and WarnerMedia corps the other day didn’t really have an answer to that dilemma, in my opinion.

Third, in regards to the whole NATO thing and reports that big exhibition was near a 60-day comprise with Netflix: There is no way in hell that big exhibition would collapse the window for a streamer. Had they done that, the San Andreas fault would open up and float the west coast out to Tahiti. The major studios would have been in an uproar! If someone is going to collapse the window, it’s going to be a major studio, likely Disney, akin to what they first did with 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, closing the theatrical-home ancillary window from four to three months. AMC got hell a few years ago when they agreed to the truncating of Paramount’s Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and these future window talks will be made like chess moves by the parties involved.


Lastly, NATO, it’s not Netflix you should be angry at and issuing statements against. They enabled a movie that nobody was going to make to be made. It’s the Oscar folks, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, you should be pissed at. They’re the ones who’ve undermined theatrical norms by upholding loosey goosey rules that allows streaming pics to compete at the Oscars. They should give poor Linda Fiorentino a Governors Award immediately for her 1994 movie The Last Seduction after she was robbed of an Oscar nom that year. Remember, that movie was disqualified by AMPAS and didn’t make it on Oscar ballots after having a full theatrical release — all because the movie aired on HBO four times before its theatrical. Hmmph.

Netflix, from its accounts, does not see The Irishman, which roughly cost the amount of three seasons worth of Stranger Things, as a missed strategic opportunity, especially as they reap the benefits of Oscar’s loophole and attempt to sway older demos to subscribe to their service.


'Motherless Brooklyn' trailer
“Motherless Brooklyn” Warner Bros

Should Motherless Brooklyn have gone to streaming? Not necessarily, given its reasonable cost. Some might argue that these upscale adult pics are a challenge for the big screen and should be relegated for streaming. But that’s B.S. Hustlers and Downton Abbey have proved otherwise, plus you have Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite from NEON out there, which is already the highest-grossing South Korean release in the states, on its way to $20M. Here’s the trick to making these upscale adult pics work at this fierce awards time of year: You have to have the wattage coming out of the festivals. That’s the only way that the sky is the limit. Motherless Brooklyn‘s problem was that it only was 62% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes after Warner propped the pic up at a number of festivals, including Telluride, TIFF, and the New York Film Festival.

That’s a risky grade for a platform release, so the studio had to go wide to make as much money as they could fast. Audience exits were just as severe as the critics, with 3 1/2 stars on PostTrak, 76% grade, and a 46% definite recommend. Pic skewed female at 57% and 55% over 35 years old with the single largest quad being 25-34 at 31%. Diversity demos were 62% Caucasian, 15% Hispanic, 12% Asian/Other, & 11% African American with best markets being North East and New York. Pic will end its stateside run with $10M-$12M.

Cynthia Erivo in 'Harriet'
Glen Wilson / Focus Features

Now, let’s compare Motherless Brooklyn with the wide break of Focus Features’ Harriet, which, off a slightly better Rotten Tomatoes rating of 72% fresh and a shining A+ CinemaScore, 4 1/2 stars and a 69% definite recommend on PostTrak, over-performed its single million dollar tracking for a $12M opening, which was higher than the $10.8M racked up by BlackKklansman (which ended its run at $48.7M).

Focus notes this morning, it is the first time in 15 years that a specialty studio has had two back-to-back films open $10M+ since 2003 Miramax’s Cold Mountain and Kill Bill Vol. I. 

Very solid, and an example that these upscale adult pics can work theatrically. Females led at 62% with 59% over 35 and 39% over 45.  Half of all moviegoers were African American, 36% Caucasian, 8% Hispanic, and 7% Asian/Other. Harriet‘s best markets were on the East coast with top markets being NYC, LA, DC, Atlanta and Chicago. African-American woman ranked it 90% Top Two boxes with a 90% definite recommend.

Harriet was the top grossing pic over the last two days at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem, the Southlake in Atlanta, AMC Orpheum in NYC, Court St. in Brooklyn, the Majestic in DC, Tinseltown in Atlanta, and the AMC Rivertowne in DC.

“Audiences have been unanimous for their love of this film, which is clear from its A+ CinemaScore and 98% Audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes,” said Focus distribution president Lisa Bunnell.  “With the story of one woman’s strength that literally change the world we all live in today, it is the feel-great movie people are looking for – becoming an event for friends and families going to see together.”

Harriet producer Debra Martin Chase said, “This is not a slave movie.  This is a movie that says we cannot control the circumstances into which we are born, but we can control what we do once we get here.”

Entertainment Studios’ wide release Arctic Dogs died with a $3.1M opening at 2,844 locations. Audiences rejected it with a B- CinemaScore, and PostTrak ratings of 64% with a 42% recommend for the general crowd with kids coming in at 74% with a 51% recommend. Females repped 58% of the crowd, and 62% under 17 with 55% Caucasian, 22% Hispanic, 12% Asian/Other and 11% African American in attendance. Mid and South-West were best markets for Arctic Dogs.


thumb rank pic dis scrs(cg) fri sat sun 3-day total wk
1 Terminator: Dark Fate Par/Sky/Fox 4,086 $10.6M $11M $7.4M $29M $29M 1
2 Joker WB 3,519 (-417) $3.8M $5.9M $4.1M $13.9M (-28%) $299.6M 5
3 Maleficent 2 Dis 3,820 (+30) $3.1M $5.8M $3.2M $12.1M (-37%)  $84.3M 3
4 harriet Focus 2,059 $3.9M $4.6M  $3.4M $12M  $12M 1
5 Addams Family MGM/UAR 3,607 (-600) $1.9M $3.8M $2.7M $8.5M (-29%) $85.3M 4
6 Zombieland 2 Sony 3,337 (-131) $2M $3.2M  $2M $7.35M (-38%) $59.3M 3
7 Countdown STX 2,675 $1.6M $2.6M $1.6M $5.9M (-34%) $17.8M 2
8 Black and Blue Sony 2,062 $1.1M $1.9M $1M $4M (-52%) $15.4M 2
9 Motherless Brooklyn WB 1,342 $1M $1.5M $1M $3.65M $3.65M 1
10 Arctic Dogs Ent. Studios 2,844 $700K $1.35M $1M $3.1M $3.1M 1
11 Parasite NEON 463 (+334) $740K $1M $840K $2.63M (+46%) $7.5M 4
12 Jojo Rabbit FSL 256 (+201) $702K $943K $756K $2.4M (+130%) $4.2M 3
13 Lighthouse A24/Reg 978 (+392) $586K $786K $652K $2M (-33%) $7M 3

2nd UPDATE, Friday Midday: Oy, let’s hope this gets better. The James Cameron-produced Terminator: Dark Fate is falling below its $30M-$40M projections with an anticipated $28M weekend at 4,086 theaters after an $11.3M Friday that includes last night’s previews. You could say, “Hey, wait a minute — didn’t Terminator: Genisys post $27M over its three-day? What’s the big deal?” No, you can’t say that because previous Terminator films have had the luxury of a holiday-period runway lasting at least five days, and starting on non-holiday Friday already puts a monkey wrench in this cinematic cyborg.

The notion of this pic making more than $42M by Tuesday isn’t foreseeable. China isn’t looking so hot, also looking to do $30M or less. Industry forecasts for the country were in the $40M-$50M range. The Paramount/Skydance Media/Fox production reportedly cost $185M, each covering 30% of the pricetag with China’s Tencent the other 10%.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Bron Studios’ Joker is seeing a fifth weekend at 3,519 venues of $11.1M in second place, -42%, for a running total of $296.8M. The pic will cross $300M in the coming week.

Focus Features’ Harriet at 2,059 locations is seeing $4M today, for a $10.6M opening at the top of its projections.

Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is seeing a third weekend of $10.4M in fourth place at 3,820, -46%, for a running total of $82.5M by Sunday.

MGM/UAR’s The Addams Family in Weekend 4 at 3,607 locations is seeing $1.8M today and $7.2M for the frame in fifth with a total Sunday of $84M.

Entertainment Studios’ Arctic Dogs and Warner Bros.’ Edward Norton-directed noir Motherless Brooklyn are both between $2M-$3M, neither fantastic. Motherless is booked at 1,342 theaters, while Arctic Dogs is in 2,844.

Also Netflix’s The Irishman is playing at IFC Center, Landmark 57th and The Belasco Theatre, while LA’s Regency Village, Egyptian, Landmark, Alamo Drafthouse and Lammle Monica Film Center will play Martin Scorsese’s 3 1/2-hour gangster opus. We heard there were problems with the digital print at Landmark 57, but showtimes should be back on track for matinees. Don’t expect Netflix to report any grosses. The pic will stream starting November 27.

1st Update: Paramount/Skydance Media/Fox’s Terminator: Dark Fate drew $2.35M from 7 p.m. shows on Halloween night. Last night we were hearing early estimates between $1.5M-$1.7M, so this definitely is an improvement on that.

That’s on par with the Tuesday night previews of its previous chapter, Terminator: Genisys which made $2.3M back on June 30, 2015. In fact it is pretty good for a Halloween night, which typically attracts audiences to genre and family fare. Genisys had a five-day opening, making $27M over its three-day weekend and $42.4M over five days. Note this is the second time in the Terminator franchise since the first pic in 1984 that one of its pics have played the fall corridor and also opened on a pure 3-day weekend. Typically Terminator movies play the July 4th spread, opening mid-week and racking up a five-seven day run. Terminator Salvation was the only movie to play the Memorial Day weekend period in 2009.

Dark Fate pulled in three stars in early Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak with a 51% definite recommend. Demo breakdowns were Males 25+ (41%), Females 25+ (30%), Males 25- (17%), Females 25- (11%) with 43% Caucasian, 29% Hispanic, 11% African American, and 10% Asian. There was a big play to expand the diversity in the Terminator series with a mostly all femme cast in Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, and Natalia Reyes, plus Hispanic leads Reyes, Diego Boneta and Gabriel Luna. Half of the pic takes place in Mexico City.

Dark Fate‘s preview night is in the vicinity of such films as John Wick: Chapter Two ($2.2M, $30.4M opening), Pacific Rim Uprising ($2.35M, $28.1M opening), The Predator ($2.5M, $24.6M opening) and Zombieland: Double Tap ($2.85M, $26.8M opening).

Joker led all movies in regular release last night with $1.88M, +15% from Wednesday for a fourth-week cume of $285.7M. Joker‘s fifth weekend is projected around $12.5M, -35%, and it will get close to the three-century mark with an expected U.S./Canada total of $298.2M.

Addams Family

Most of the pics in the top 10 on Halloween night, which were mostly genre and family fare, saw gains over Wednesday night including Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ($1.38M, +25%), Zombieland: Double Tap ($1.2M, +25%), The Addams Family ($1.1M, +25%) and Countdown ($1M, +97%). Upscale adult fare also did all right with Downton Abbey ($280K, +7%), The Current War: Director’s Cut ($255K, +11%), and Parasite ($201K, even).

In China — where Terminator: Dark Fate is being handled by Tencent, which is covering 10% of the pic’s production cost — the film ranks second in its first day of release with an estimated $9.7M (that includes previews). IT bowed behind local title Better Days, which made $10.8M in its eighth day, raising its cume to $134M. China with $113.2M repped 32% of Genisys‘ $350.8M overseas the haul, the best foreign B.O. ever for a Terminator movie.

How Linda Hamilton Got Back In Sarah Connor Shape For ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’: Her Trainer Explains

Projections for the reported $185M James Cameron-produced, Tim Miller-directed sixth Terminator movie are leaning out of the $40M range toward the high-$30M range. The film really needs to work overseas, where Disney/Fox has it, with industry projections eyeing $80M-$85M this weekend as it opens in 36 additional territories and China. The Arnold Schwarzenegger-Linda Hamilton reteam fizzled in its initial suite of territories last weekend with $12.6M including France and UK. On Rotten Tomatoes, Dark Fate is 71% fresh, a rating that’s higher than the third pic, 2003’s Terminator: Rise of the Machines (69%); 2009’s Terminator Salvation (33%); and 2015’s Terminator: Genisys, which was the most-loathed sequel in the series by critics with 27%.

Cynthia Erivo in 'Harriet'
Glen Wilson / Focus Features

Also previewing last night off 7 p.m. shows was Focus Features’ Harriet, which we heard last night did between $300K-$400K. The pic came in stronger with $600K. The Kasi Lemmons-directed pic about Harriet Tubman has a revised projection between $7.5M-$10M. Harriet received 3 1/2 stars on PostTrak with a 50% definite recommend. Females 25+ led the way at 54%, followed by guys over 25 (38%), females under 25 (6%) and males under 25 at 3%. Caucasians repped 54% of the audience, African Americans were 37%, Hispanics 5% and Asian 1%.

Entertainment Studios’ Arctic Dogs and Warner Bros.’ Motherless Brooklyn begin showtimes today. The movies are expected to debut in the ranges of $4M-$7M and $3M-$8M, respectively.

‘Harriet’ Review: Harriet Tubman Finally Gets Her Major Movie, And It Packs A Punch

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