After the PG-13 Terminator: Genisys four years ago registered $89.8M — the series’ lowest grosses stateside the 1984 original pic’s $38.3M — and was critically slammed at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, David Ellison’s Skydance sincerely is aiming to get this latest reboot right. If Cameron wasn’t going to direct due to the Avatar sequels, then heck he would produce and get a “story by” credit. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton were paired back up again, the latter having been absent since the 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment 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 to their R-rated grit. Also key in the billing of Dark Fate was that, out of six Terminator films, this one technically is a sequel to Judgment Day. Forget about everything in between.
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After all these proper intentions, and keeping en vogue with recent tentpole franchises such as 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 box office, 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 on 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 first went abroad before U.S./Canada in 10 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 the Joaquin Phoenix starrer 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 October 26, 1984, title, and the first time since then that it has opened over a three-day, non-holiday weekend. Terminator pics 2-5 always played a holiday weekend, typically debuting over five days; most of them bowed 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 five days and $27M over three days and was bested over the July 4th weekend by the third frame of Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out ($29.8M) and Universal’s fourth weekend of Jurassic World ($29.2M).
Tuesday night previews for Genisys were $2.3M at 2,527 venues, and it 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, though. 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 Judgment 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 and Tencent handling China at a 10% exposure.
Elsewhere in U.S./Canada, Joker should have the best hold next to Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, -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 7 PM. 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. The 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 and 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 already is 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 also could 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.