The Fourth of July weekend is traditionally a pretty big deal at the box office, and the 2015 version is set for one doozy of a throw down between killer robots from the future and a gang of greased-up male strippers. That’s right, the two big releases this weekend, both of which hit theaters today actually, are Terminator Genisys and Magic Mike XXL, a sequel to a franchise many thought dead and the follow up to what may have been the most surprising hit of 2013, respectively. But which of these heavyweight contenders will emerge as the champion when the dust settles?
According to Fandango, "the nation’s leading digital destination for moviegoers and fans," projections are neck and neck at this point. In their own metric, which ranks fan anticipation and buzz on a scale of 1 to 100, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-fronted Genisys sits at 90, while Channing Tatum and his scantily clad pals are nipping at its heels with an 88.
In the days leading up to release, both did brisk business as far as presale tickets go. Genisys outpaced this year’s earlier action blockbuster fronted by a beefy dude, San Andreas. And when placed alongside fellow R-rated comedy Spy for comparison, Magic Mike is also ahead of the Paul Feig-directed, Melissa McCarthy-starring espionage send up.
As far as other box office prognosticators go, estimates have the latest Terminator installment tracking to earn between $50 and $55 million this weekend, while XXL is, again, trailing just behind at between $45 and $48 million, both of which are respectable totals.
From a critical standpoint, we gave both films rave reviews, with each scoring four out of five possible stars. (Full disclosure, I personally don’t share our critics enthusiasm for Terminator Genisys, and I have yet to see Magic Mike XXL.) A quick glimpse at review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes shows that, overall, reviews are not being particularly kind to either endeavor, with Genisys currently sitting at 26%, with XXL substantially higher at 59%, though that’s not exactly an outstanding number (it does, however, appear to be climbing).
Though he’s not quite the box office draw he was in his heyday, Terminator Genisys does see the return of franchise icon Arnold Schwarzenegger as he reprises his role as a skin-covered robot soldier from the future. Response to the marketing push has been mixed, and people have taken issue with the ubiquitous use of CGI, a plot that seems overly complex, jumbled, and convoluted, and huge plot twists being given away in damn near every trailer, TV spot, and even poster.
However, Terminator does have name recognition going for it, and generations of built-in fans who want nothing more than to see the series return to its former glory. And with a PG-13 rating, it will be more accessible to a wider segment of the movie-going populace. That said, the advanced screening I went to, at the biggest, best IMAX screen in town, was only roughly three-quarters full, and the general reaction was tepid at best—some folks I talked to loved it, while just as many, if not more, decidedly did not.
In its corner, Magic Mike XXL has sex appeal, and lots of it. This movie seems tailor-made for a rowdy night at the movie theater with a group of friends. Many early reviews have said that it maintains the loud, unruly fun of the Steven Soderbergh-directed original, while it doesn’t ever get too serious or scolding, as some have said of the first film. It also features a shocking number of air humps (72), and while it takes 35 minutes before we get any shirtless action, which seems like a long time considering the subject matter, it only takes three for before there’s naked butt.
From all of the indicators listed above—critical response, the prediction of analysts who make a career out of this sort of thing, and more factors—as well as our gut feeling, it appears clear to us that Terminator Genisys will most likely win the Fourth of July box office battle. It may not crush Magic Mike XXL, but we expect it to sell more tickets and put more butts in the seats.
While that’s the probable outcome, Magic Mike XXL may very well have the last laugh. The original cost a sparse $7 million to produce and earned $167 million worldwide, and while the sequel cost double, $14 million is nothing by Hollywood standards. If the projections hold, it will be exponentially more profitable than Terminator Genisys, which set Paramount back somewhere in the neighborhood of $155 million. Even with a healthy advertising budget to account for, Magic Mike XXL will quickly recoup all of its costs and make its investors a tidy sum.
Which of these movies are you most excited to see? Which, if either, will get your hard-earned money at the box office this weekend? Or will you skip both and go see Jurassic World and Inside Out again?