LOS ANGELES — The “Terminator” franchise may not be back.
The moviegoing masses in the United States and Canada spurned the sixth chapter in the science-fiction movie series over the weekend — the fifth and fourth installments were box-office misfires, too — calling into question the future of the 35-year-old property, which has also been mined over the years for television shows and video games.
The latest film, “Terminator: Dark Fate,” cost at least $185 million to make, not including tens of millions of dollars in marketing expenses. While it was No. 1 in North America, ticket sales in North America fell well below expectations: $29 million, according to Comscore. Paramount Pictures, which distributed the movie, had been expecting about $40 million.
“Were we hoping for more? Of course,” Kyle Davies, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution, said by phone on Sunday. “But we are proud of the movie. It truly delivers big action and big thrills. We tried to understand and honor what the fans wanted.”
Overseas, where Disney is mostly handling distribution (through its 20th Century Fox division), ticket sales were relatively leaden: $73 million from 48 countries.
Warner Bros. also had a bad weekend. “Motherless Brooklyn,” a high-minded crime drama directed by Edward Norton, who played the lead and wrote the screenplay, was dead on arrival. It collected $3.7 million. Mid-budget movies — “Motherless Brooklyn” cost about $25 million to make, not including marketing — have been sputtering in theatrical release, prompting studios to avoid them entirely or reroute them to streaming services.
“Joker” (Warner) chugged away in second place, collecting $13.9 million, for a five-week total of $300 million ($935 million worldwide); while “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” (Disney) was third, taking in $12.2 million and lifting its three-week total to $84.3 million.
“Harriet” (Focus Features), a new biographical drama about Harriet Tubman, outperformed prerelease expectations to take in about $12 million and place fourth.
“Terminator: Dark Fate,” directed by Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) and carrying an R rating, received decent reviews. James Cameron, who created the series in 1984, returned as a producer for the first time since “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” released in 1991. The latest chapter also brought back Linda Hamilton, who had also moved on after “Judgment Day.” Arnold Schwarzenegger reprised his role as well.
[Read our “Terminator: Dark Fate” review.]
But there appeared to be little good will left for the franchise. “Terminator Genisys” was a terrible movie. Its 2009 franchise predecessor, “Terminator Salvation,” also received abysmal reviews. Ticket buyers will only put up with so much disappointment before they move on, especially at a time when entertainment options — Fortnite, Netflix, TikTok, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV Plus — are plentiful.
“The gang is back and they’re better than ever is not enough,” David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a movie consultancy, said in an email.
Paramount, Skydance Media and Disney each shouldered about 30 percent of the cost for “Terminator: Dark Fate,” with the balance paid by the Chinese conglomerate Tencent.
Skydance, run by the Oracle heir David Ellison, and Paramount, part of the Viacom empire, can’t seem to catch a break. “Terminator: Dark Fate” marked their second big-budget flop in four weeks, with “Gemini Man,” starring Will Smith, also failing to connect with ticket buyers.
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