Terminator: Dark Fate got off to a rough start at the box office, and its problems are worse than some might initially realize. Released this past weekend, Dark Fate marked Hollywood's latest attempt to revive the floundering Terminator franchise, which has seen continuously diminishing returns since 1991's Judgment Day. Even with original Terminator creator James Cameron back in the fold as producer and Linda Hamilton reprising her iconic Sarah Conner role, audiences weren't very interested in the legacy sequel. Despite generally positive reviews, Dark Fate made only $29 million domestically in its first three days.
As it stands, the film is on pace to lose a whopping $120 million, effectively putting the property on ice for the foreseeable future. With its $185 million production budget, Dark Fate needed to be a massive blockbuster in order to turn a profit and warrant the followups that were planned. Unfortunately for all involved, the movie is a non-starter commercially, even overseas. Films can rebound from soft domestic numbers, but a poor showing internationally is a kiss of death.
What makes Dark Fate's turnout so catastrophic is the fact it posted a $28 million debut in China, the world's second-largest film market. The expectation was that number would be much higher, but Dark Fate fell short. This comes after Genisys had an uneven run in China, earning $113.2 million total in the country. That honestly isn't a very notable boost, seeing that Mission: Impossible - Fallout (another Paramount tentpole) made $181.1 million in China last summer. Apparently, Terminator doesn't have much drawing power in the Middle Kingdom, probably because the property's heyday came well before the prominence of the international box office. Some recent tentpoles performed well enough in China to get an extension, but Dark Fate won't be in that category.
As of this writing, Dark Fate has earned $123.6 million globally, meaning it still has a long way to go before reaching its break-even point. And based on the projections, it isn't going to get anywhere near there. With interest in the sequel already so slow, the film is going to begin its slide down the charts this coming week, when Doctor Sleep opens. The rest of November sees an assortment of other high-profile films premiering, like Ford v Ferrari, Frozen II, and Knives Out. By the middle of the month, Dark Fate will be an afterthought to the moviegoing public; this is not going to have strong legs.
There was a point in time when it was believed Genisys' global box office ($440.6 million) would be high enough to save the franchise, but no such stories will be written about Dark Fate. This was an all-around misfire, and perhaps the final sign it's time to lay this franchise to rest. Dark Fate is the third failed attempt at a reboot, and it's worth remembering Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines didn't exactly set the multiplex on fire when it played back in 2003. It's easy to see why studios are so interested in going back to the well (Terminator remains a famous sci-fi vehicle), but this clearly isn't working anymore. Dark Fate should be the last Terminator for a while.