“I’ll be back” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 famously promised in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and he has kept that promise time and time again. Now Arnold is back once more, alongside a returning Linda Hamilton and franchise creator James Cameron, who are all part of this fall’s Terminator: Dark Fate. Like Kyle Reese arriving with a message from the future, the long-range tracking is in and we now have an idea about how much Terminator: Dark Fate could make at the box office on opening weekend.
If the long-range tracking proves prophetic, fate has a fairly modest opening weekend in store for Terminator: Dark Fate. Box Office Pro is forecasting Tim Miller’s film to have an opening weekend between $35-$45 million when it opens at the beginning of November. That number isn’t particularly impressive among sci-fi blockbusters, but it could actually represent one of the better openings in the franchise.
Not accounting for inflation, the biggest opening weekend enjoyed by a Terminator film is Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine’s $44 million, followed by Terminator: Salvation’s $42.5 million. If Dark Fate arrives at the top end of its tracking, it could potentially score a franchise-best opening. Even if it falls on the low-end, it would still be the third-best, surpassing Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s $31.7 million.
Other than the first film in 1984, the lowest debut for a Terminator movie to date was the last film in the franchise, the disappointing Terminator: Genisys, which opened to $27 million domestically in 2015. Lingering disappointment in that film could result in some audience apathy toward the newest film at the box office. Audiences may not want to get burned again.
The suspect quality of recent entries in this franchise has seen its domestic returns steadily declining, with the $155 million Terminator: Genisys making only $89.7 million domestic. Dark Fate will have its work cut out for it to restore confidence in the property. On that front, Terminator: Dark Fate is at least doing what it can to return the franchise to its former glory.
This movie is a reboot-quel that will eliminate everything post-T2 from continuity, which means all the bad movies, basically. It will also go back to an R rating, unlike the PG-13 sported by the last two movies in the series. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back and so is franchise heroine Linda Hamilton, who will be playing Sarah Connor. James Cameron is also on board as a producer, with his name connoting what will hopefully be a seal of quality.
Those factors should inspire enough curiosity among the franchise’s fans to check this movie out, but what it will do for Terminator: Dark Fate among general audiences is anyone’s guess. That James Cameron rub helped out Alita: Battle Angel earlier this year at the international box office, but also didn’t wholly propel it to a domestic victory. Marketing-wise, the trailers for Terminator: Dark Fate haven’t been terrible by any stretch, but I also don't think they've necessarily established this movie as an unquestionable must-see-opening-weekend movie, either.
The Terminator franchise is all about changing the future though, so there is still plenty of time to change the narrative on that front. Terminator: Dark Fate does look to be arriving at an advantageous time on the calendar. It is debuting opposite Motherless Brooklyn and Harriet, both of which are more prestige pics and likely won’t be pulling masses of general audiences away from Dark Fate.
As a sci-fi action movie, Terminator: Dark Fate will be three weeks removed from Ang Lee’s Gemini Man and audiences may be itching for this kind of thing by November. However it fares opening weekend, Terminator: Dark Fate will probably ultimately succeed or fail overseas. The last film in the franchise earned 80% of its take outside of North America and, for comparison, Alita earned 79% internationally earlier this year.
It seems like Terminator: Dark Fate could really go either way. Its domestic performance will likely hinge a lot on how well it’s received and what kind of word of mouth the film has. Hopefully it is a good movie and does well because if so, Cameron & Co. already have a trilogy in mind.
Terminator: Dark Fate arrives in theaters on November 1. Check out our 2019 release schedule to keep track of all the big movies coming this fall.