LOS ANGELES, (Variety.com) - “Terminator: Dark Fate” shot past box office competition but still fell short of expectations as Paramount and Skydance Media’s sci-fi sequel debuted to $29 million in North America.
Though the sixth installment in the “Terminator” franchise landed in first place on domestic box office charts, the results are less than promising given the film’s $185 million budget. Heading into the weekend, the movie was expected to collect over $40 million during its first three days in theaters. Those figures seemed attainable since reviews were strong and audience sentiment was overwhelmingly positive.
International audiences could give the film a boost. Overseas, “Terminator: Dark Fate” earned another $72.9 million. Disney is releasing the movie in all foreign territories aside from China, where Tencent Pictures is handling distribution.
“Dark Fate” reunites series creator James Cameron with stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the first “Terminator” movie since 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” They were joined by new cast members Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna. In this installment, Sarah Connor (Hamilton) must protect a young girl from a deadly new Terminator from the future. Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) directed from a screenplay by David S. Goyer (“The Dark Knight,” “Blade”), Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray.
“Terminator” might not be the only film with a dark fate at multiplexes. Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn” barely cracked the top 10, generating a paltry $3.6 million when it bowed in 2,720 North American theaters. The neo-noir crime drama, based on Jonathan Lethem’s novel, cost $26 million. In addition to writing and directing the long-gestating film, Norton stars as a private investigator with Tourette syndrome who works to solve the murder of his mentor. The cast also includes Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale and Alec Baldwin.
Fellow new release, Focus Features’ “Harriet,” had a far more promising start at the domestic box office, arriving at No. 4 with $12 million from 2,059 venues, ahead of expectations. The film boasts a rare A+ Cinemascore from audiences, signaling the historical drama could continue to benefit from positive word of mouth. Older female moviegoers drove “Harriet’s” opening weekend sales: 62% were women and 59% were over the age of 35. African Americans accounted for nearly 50% of ticket buyers.
“Harriet” carries a $17 million production budget, which should help it pave a clear path toward profitability. Adding to the plaudits for Focus Features, it’s the first specialty studio in 15 years with two back-to-back films that debuted above $10 million. In September, the company released “Downton Abbey,” which launched with a better-than-expected $31 million.
“Harriet” centers on Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo), the abolitionist who led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Kasi Lemmons directed the film, which also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn and Janelle Monae.
“Audiences have been unanimous for their love of this film, which is clear from its A+ CinemaScore and 98% Audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes,” said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features’ president of distribution. “With the story of one woman’s strength that literally change the world we all live in today, it is the feel-great movie people are looking for — becoming an event for friends and families going to see together.”
Adds producer Debra Martin Chase, “This is not a slave movie. This is a movie that says we cannot control the circumstances into which we are born, but we can control what we do once we get here.”
This weekend’s final newcomer, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures’ “Arctic Dogs,” lacked much bite, debuting in 10th place with $3.1 million from 2,844 screens. The kid-friendly animated adventure about a team of ambitions animals features the voice cast of Jeremy Renner, Heidi Klum, James Franco and Anjelica Huston.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ “Joker” benefitted from the Halloween spirit and held steady at No. 2, declining just 29% to $13.6 million in its fifth weekend of release. “Joker” has generated a huge $299 million in North America and $934 million globally, putting Joaquin Phoenix’s super-villain origin story on track to clear the $1 billion mark worldwide.
Holdovers Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and MGM’s “Addams Family” rounded out the top five.