Terminator: Dark Fate bombs at box office

Despite generally favourable reviews, Terminator: Dark Fate has opened well below expectations at the box office. Studios on Sunday estimate that Dark Fate, which cost $185 million US to make, earned only $29 million in North American theatres.

Star factor and good reviews couldn't save Dark Fate from becoming one of the year's biggest failures

Star Linda Hamilton is shown here as Sarah Connor in Terminator: Dark Fate, a character she has reprised three times in feature films. Both Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning for their iconic roles could not save the film from poor performance at the box office. (Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures/The Associated Press)

It might be judgment day for the Terminator franchise.

Despite generally favourable reviews and the return of star Linda Hamilton and producer James Cameron, Terminator: Dark Fate has opened well below expectations at the box office. Studios on Sunday estimate that Dark Fate earned only $29 million US from over 4,000 North American locations. The film from Paramount Pictures cost a reported $185 million to produce.

It was enough to win the top spot at the box office, but it's a weak victory for the franchise. Although Dark Fate, which was directed by Deadpool's Tim Miller, received much better reviews (currently at 69 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) and was praised for being a return to form to Cameron's original films, it opened just slightly ahead of 2015's roundly derided Terminator: Genisys.

"These big brands carry with them huge expectations, often unrealistic expectations," said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "It wasn't for lack of enthusiasm for the stars and filmmakers."

Internationally, Dark Fate did much better, earning $72.9 million from 48 markets. Fox International, not Paramount, is handling international distribution, excluding China. Despite that, the film still faces losses of $120 million or more, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Second place went to Joker, which added $13.9 million, bringing its global earnings to $934 million in just five weeks in theatres. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil landed in third place in its third weekend with an additional $12.2 million. The Angelina Jolie-led sequel has grossed $84.3 million in North America.

It is the second disappointment in a row for Paramount and co-financer Skydance, as both production companies also collaborated on Ang Lee's Gemini Man. That film, released earlier this year, was shot in the unusual format of 120 frames per second, and employed an impressive visual effects technology to produce a younger version of star Will Smith for him to act alongside. 

Director Ang Lee told CBC News that style of filmmaking is "the logical next step for movie viewing," as he — and other filmmakers — attempted to lure back fading movie theatre audiences. 

Following poor reviews and a disappointing opening, Gemini Man reportedly faced losses of $75 million.