Holiday movie season is finally here, in industry terms, as November arrives this Friday and four studios get a jump on the lucrative two-month-plus corridor at year’s end.
Leading the pack of openers this weekend is Paramount’s latest resurrection of the Terminator franchise, this time featuring the return of Linda Hamilton alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dark Fate has long been hyped as a return to the series’ roots with an R-rated action film that ignores the events of the previous three chapters — 2003’s Rise of the Machines, 2009’s Salvation, and 2015’s Genisys. With James Cameron in a visible producer’s role, fans have hoped for more positive results this time around.
Unfortunately, pre-release tracking hasn’t indicated that enthusiasm extends much beyond the target adult male fan base. Despite traditional tracking suggesting an opening weekend near $50 million could be possible, our own internal models have consistently pointed to a lower performance more akin to films like Alien: Covenant and Dark Phoenix — each of which opened south of $40 million stateside.
The franchise has shed a major share of its audience over the past three decades, since Cameron’s Judgement Day was one of the biggest blockbusters of its time. Genisys was the first in five entries to miss the $100 million domestic box office mark in summer 2015, despite an attempt to softly reboot the franchise with Arnold in a more prominent role.
Unfortunately, though, the (lack of) continuity and confusion around how this latest film and its own predecessors fit into the franchise’s overarching story are shaping up to be deterrents for the uninitiated not following the film’s production and efforts to separate it from the non-Cameron films.
One advantage in its favor, though, could be the older target audience. Combined with an IMAX and PLF run, that should lift average ticket prices over those of other franchise movies with younger appeal. We’re also observing trends that suggest it might not be as front-loaded to Thursday showings as is typical of franchise pics — again, due to the target audience age.
Adding to the bearish expectations now are the film’s lukewarm reviews (currently 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and an underwhelming overseas debut last weekend, particularly in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The international field has often been a saving grace for the franchise in the wake of domestic under-performances, but even when considering the shifting tides of inflation rates and other factors, last week’s results don’t bode well for Dark Fate‘s domestic reception.
If other territories mirror those of early international returns, and the domestic footprint meets our current expectations for a $70 – 90 million finish, a global total below $300 million could be in the cards — significantly down from Genisys‘ $440.6 million four years ago.
This Week’s Other Debuts
In more encouraging news, Harriet is shaping up to generate solid business as it releases in approximately 2,000 theaters from Focus Features. Pre-release trends are very positive, with models indicating it could out-perform last weekend’s Black and Blue and 2017’s Marshall.
Entertainment Studios will unleash Arctic Dogs in an effort to attract families who’ve already seen the Maleficent sequel and Addams Family, although those two titles should still combine for a significant audience this weekend as more recognizable IP and lingering Halloween spillover. That’s likely to hinder Arctic in some fashion, though it will have a few weeks to generate staying power before Frozen II drops.
Rounding out the wide releases will be Warner Bros.’ Motherless Brooklyn, another adult-aimed counter-programming option that has some star power on its side but hasn’t popped in many notable ways across pre-release tracking.
Ultimately, we expect Dark Fate to win the weekend by a fair margin, while Joker and Mistress of Evil will likely be in another close race — this time for the runner-up position.
Opening Weekend Ranges
- Terminator: Dark Fate ($28 – 38 million)
- Arctic Dogs ($5 – 10 million)
- Harriet ($5 – 10 million)
- Motherless Brooklyn ($3 – 8 million)
Top 10 v. Last Year
Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will decline approximately 19 to 24 percent from the same frame one year ago, which earned $129.4 million across its top ten. That was largely driven by the smashing success of Bohemian Rhapsody as it earned a stellar $51.1 million debut weekend.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, November 3||% Change from Last Wknd|
|Terminator: Dark Fate||Paramount||$33,500,000||$33,500,000||NEW|
|Maleficent: Mistress of Evil||Disney||$12,000,000||$84,200,000||-38%|
|The Addams Family (2019)||United Artists Releasing||$8,200,000||$84,000,000||-32%|
|Zombieland 2: Double Tap||Sony / Columbia||$6,500,000||$58,200,000||-45%|
|Arctic Dogs||Entertainment Studios||$6,000,000||$6,000,000||NEW|
|Black and Blue||Sony / Screen Gems||$4,500,000||$15,800,000||-46%|
|Motherless Brooklyn||Warner Bros.||$3,600,000||$3,600,000||NEW|
Forecasts subject to change as location counts are finalized before Friday
The chart above excludes releases and potential expansions from limited and platform films