The Holiday Movie Season is here (hooray!), and it’s not off to a good start (boo!). But save your panic, because this is still the season when The Rise of Skywalker, Frozen II, and a new Jumanji are going to make about a billion-and-a-half alone domestically. This weekend, despite four new releases, gives us a Top Ten that isn’t even going to cross $100 million. Three of those releases weren’t expected to set the box office on fire, but the numbers that the new Terminator film put up is likely to make Paramount a little nervous as they stare down their second big-budget sci-fi misfire in a row.
The Terminator series has, without question, been waning in popularity over the years. James Cameron and Linda Hamilton left after the second film. Arnold Schwarzenegger left after the third. The global sensation that was Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains one of the great action films of all-time. 12 years later, Arnold gave it another spin with Rise of the Machines, which opened to a healthy $44 million and grossed over $150 million domestically. (T2 would amount to about $386 million in ticket sales today.) The reboot of Terminator: Salvation in 2009 with Christian Bale and Sam Worthington opened to $42.5 million and finished with $125 million. Then, in 2015, Terminator: Genisys opened to $26.1 million from Weds-to-Fri — or $27 million from Fri-to-Sun — and then failed to reach $90 million stateside.
Now, 35 years after Cameron’s The Terminator premiered and four years since Cameron endorsed Genisys as the “real” Terminator 3, we now have Terminator: Dark Fate being sold to audiences as the “real” Terminator 3. And audiences are not buying. A $29 million opening is well below the low-40s projections we’ve been hearing for weeks, and it comes out to only a $7,097 per-theater-average. (T3 & T4 were each over $12,000.) Critically, the film is holding steady at 69% on the Tomatometer (the same number for the real “real” Terminator 3; the last positively-scored film in the series.) But nobody at Paramount can be thrilled with the dollar figure, given a $185 million budget, especially coming right after the failure of Ang Lee’s Gemini Man, which has grossed just $155 million worldwide to date on a $138 million budget.
Consider that only four films have ever opened in November to a PTA under $7,500 and grossed over $100 million, and all four were animated – The Polar Express ($162.77 million), Bolt ($114.05), The Princess and the Frog ($104.04), and Rise of the Guardians ($103.41). That is bad news for a film that is in the same boat as Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and needs over a half-billion dollars before we come even close to talking profit. Disney’s film only just crossed $300 million worldwide on Thursday. Genisys, the highest-grossing international Terminator to date, made $350 million and squeaked out a tiny profit. But Dark Fate may be living up to its name as it has grossed just $94 million total overseas so far.
Speaking of per-theater averages, Focus Features is having a bit of a moment. Downton Abbey has grossed over $94 million and has become their highest-grossing domestic title ever. This weekend, Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet opened to $12 million and notches another top ten finish in Focus’ record books. While not a giant number, Harriet’s $5,828 per-theater-average is the sixth best ever for Focus when they launch a film in over 2,000 theaters. It ranks behind The Strangers, Insidious: Chapter 3, Coraline, Burn After Reading, and London Has Fallen, and is now ahead of Atomic Blonde, The Forest, and The Boxtrolls. A pair of Jet Li films (Unleashed and Fearless) represent the low bar of Focus’ films opening to $10 million or higher, as each grossed $24.53 and $24.63 million, respectively. The Forest is their only release to open over $11 million and fail to gross at least $32 million.
The two remaining new releases are downright Goldfinchian. Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn, also released by Warner Bros., cost $26 million and grossed just $3.6 million. That is just a $2,682 per-theater-average in 1,342 venues. That is comparable to STX’s The Best of Enemies from April, which had a $2,608 average in 1,705 theaters and finished with just $10.2 million. Norton said that he cashed in every favor in Hollywood to get this film made, so there may be a lot of Italian Jobs in his future.
Then on the animated front, Missing Link can rest easy that it no longer has the weakest opening of the year. That now belongs to the $50-million budgeted Arctic Dogs from Entertainment Studios. Its $3.1 million start is the lowest for an animated film released in over 2,000 theaters since Disney’s Teacher’s Pet ($2.46 million) back in 2004. That start is also the lowest ever for one released in over 3,000 theaters, replacing 2015’s Strange Magic, which opened to $5.5 million and finished with just $12.4 million. Arctic Dogs is now destined to join a list of animated films in 2,000+ theaters to gross less than $10 million that includes Ratchet & Clank, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Rock Dog, Doogal, The Wild Life, Early Man, and Teacher’s Pet.
Joker fell back to second place this week and is now just shy of $300 million domestic. It has become the 59th film in history to cross the $900 million line and is approaching the list of the 50 highest-grossing films of all time. At $299 million, Joker is ahead of where DC’s Suicide Squad was on Day 31 ($297.32 million) and beat its fifth weekend $13.90-to-$9.91 million. That should fill in at least another $25-30 million as Todd Phillips’ film is headed past $325 million. At $934 million worldwide, even without another international dollar, Joker is going to join this list of the Top 50 grossers of all-time.
The aforementioned Maleficent: Mistress of Evil earned another $12.1 million this weekend for a total of $82 million domestic. That may be the 15th best total for an October release after 17 days and the 14th best third weekend, but it is still well in the red. It has a chance to reach $100 million domestic but even with another $298 million worldwide (which it has now) it is still about $170 million away from talking profit. United Artists Releasing’s The Addams Family, however, is headed exactly there. With another $8.4 million, the movie has passed $100 million globally and it is all IHOP gravy from there.
Neon continues to make the most out of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (Certified Fresh at 99%). They expanded the film into 461 theaters and it grossed $2.6 million. That puts it in the vicinity of The Favourite, which moved into 441 theaters in weekend four and grossed $2.605 million, as well as Birdman, which was in 460 theaters and made $2.31 million. Both films from Fox Searchlight went on to become Best Picture nominees and grossed $34.36 and $42.34 million, respectively. Parasite’s total stands at $7.5 million.
Speaking of which, the Fox specialty division now under Disney has Jojo Rabbit. Taika Waititi’s film was expanded in 256 theaters this weekend and grossed $2.4 million. That is also in the vicinity of Birdman’s third weekend ($2.39 million in 231 theaters) but also a little behind Searchlight’s (500) Days of Summer ($2.77 million in 266 theaters) and A24’s Lady Bird ($2.51 million in 244 theaters.) Those three films grossed between $32-49 million with a pair bolstered by their Oscar campaign. Still, if they can keep up interest and get the film to around $25 million, that will be a solid victory. Its total is currently $4.2 million.
Finally there is The Lighthouse (Certified Fresh at 92%) which A24 expanded again into 978 theaters, but fell back from last week’s Top Ten gross of $3.02 million back to $2 million. That’s a gross on par with 2017’s The Beguiled ($2.06 million in 941 theaters) just as it was last week suggesting a final total around that film’s $10.7 million is in the cards for Robert Eggers’ follow-up to The Witch.
Three new films led the box office but only one turned into a phenomenon. Bohemian Rhapsody began its run towards the Oscars and history with a $51 million opening, more than the next three films combined. They included the Disney bust, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ($20.35 million), Tyler Perry’s Nobody’s Fool ($13.74 million) and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born ($11 million) which passed $165 million this weekend. David Gordon Green’s Halloween also passed $150 million in fifth place. The biggest per-theater-average of the week went to Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased ($41,411 in 5 theaters). The Top Ten films grossed $129.38 million and averaged 57.2% on the Tomatometer, while this year’s Top Ten grossed an estimated $99.3 Million and averaged 51.5% with critics.
The Holiday Movie Season is undeniably frontloaded this year, with everyone trying to get their piece of the pie before Frozen II and The Rise of Skywalker dominate. The favorite going into next week is Mike Flanagan’s two-and-a-half-hour adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, with Ewan McGregor. Roland Emmerich is back to blow things up with a real-life war story in Midway. For the romance fans out there, Paul Feig is teaming up Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in Last Christmas and for families looking for an amuse-bouche before Anna & Elsa, John Cena plays a babysitting fireman in Playing with Fire. Also in limited release is Shia LaBeouf’s acclaimed autobiographical story of his relationship with his troubled father in Honey Boy.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]