‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Puts Franchise on Ice, Faces $120M-Plus Loss
The film bombed in its U.S. debut over the weekend with $29 million. A storied Hollywood film franchise has been terminated — at least for the foreseeable future.
Terminator: Dark Fate bombed in its global box office debut over the weekend, grossing just $29 million in the U.S., well behind expectations. Nor was its performance much better overseas, where it has earned $94.6 million to date, including a lackluster China launch of $28 million, for a global total of $123.6 million.
Dark Fate faces losses of $120 million-plus for partners Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, which each put up 30 percent of the $185 million budget (Disney, which now owns the Fox film studio, will absorb the loss), sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. China’s Tencent has a 10 percent stake.
The red ink could end up at $130 million if the pic doesn’t hold internationally; conversely, the losses could be closer to $110 million if it does have strong legs offshore, sources add.
While the losses will be spread around, Dark Fate’s surprisingly poor performance is a blow for David Ellison’s Skydance, which has spent tens of millions trying to reboot the James Cameron-created series that first hit the big screen in 1984. It’s also a blow for Paramount, which needs franchises.
Ellison’s first attempt was 2015’s Terminator Genisys, released in partnership with Warner Bros. The film, which cost more than $150 million to produce before marketing, grossed $440.6 million globally, so it wasn’t a financial disaster. It earned more than $100 million in China alone but faltered in the U.S., where it topped out at $89.8 million.
Terminator Genisys was supposed to be the first of a trilogy but was reviled by critics. Ellison quickly scrapped the two follow-ups and went back to the drawing board. He arranged for Cameron to come back and produce a movie that would be a direct sequel to the first two films — The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, both of which were directed by Cameron — as well as helped arrange for the return of original series stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The R-rated Dark Fate was directed by Deadpool helmer Tim Miller. Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta also star. Box office analysts say the movie’s poor opening is a reflection of complete IP failure. (Insiders at Paramount and Skydance don’t disagree.)
“It is time to let this franchise finally go to the great beyond,” says Eric Handler of MKM Partners.
Adds Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations, “This is definitely the end of the line for the Terminator franchise in its current iteration. That said, IPs are harder to kill off than Jason Vorhees these days. So, expect a new series in five years on CBS All Access. Probably animated this time.”
None of the companies involved would comment on the losses, but sources close to Skydance say there are certainly no plans for another film at this point. Ellison acquired the rights to Terminator from his sister, producer Megan Ellison, who bought them for a reported $20 million in 2011.
Following the first two films, neither Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) nor Terminator Salvation (2009) were able to reboot the film series, followed by Genisys. Analysts say any company would have tried again, considering the franchise mentality permeating the Hollywood studio system.
“The goodwill and brand equity created by the first two Terminator films was arguably undone by the subsequent pre-Dark Fate installments, which may have negatively impacted audience interest in this latest chapter in the series,” says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore.
Dark Fate is the second pricey miss in a row for Paramount and Skydance, following Ang Lee’s Gemini Man.