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The Insane Failure Of Dark Fate Is Turning Heads

As promised, the Terminator franchise came back... but it didn't arrive to the kind of financial success that studio Paramount Pictures was hoping for. 

Terminator: Dark Fate, the sixth entry into the Terminator film series that acts as a direct sequel to 1984's Terminator and 1991's Terminator: Judgment Day, opened in theaters on Friday, November 1 to dismal box office returns. Despite having James Cameron back on board as a producer, Deadpool director Tim Miller behind the helm, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton in their respective roles as the T-800 Terminator and the gun-toting badass Sarah Connor, and a host of intriguing new characters in the mix, Dark Fate sadly lived up to its name — facing a dark fate by earning just $29 million domestically and $94.6 million internationally over its opening weekend. 

With a total debut pull of $123.6 million, Terminator: Dark Fate hasn't come close to recouping its reported production budget of $185 million, which doesn't include the cost of marketing and distribution. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this means that Dark Fate could end up costing Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media, and the now-shuttered 20th Century Fox more than $120 million. Each company is said to have financed 30 percent of the film's budget, which works out to about $55.5 million a pop. (Since Disney is now the owner of Fox, that studio will reportedly "absorb" any loss incurred.) The remaining 10 percent of Dark Fate's production budget is on the line at the Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings. 

THR details the worst-case scenario for Terminator: Dark Fate as costing its financiers $130 million in the event that the film loses its overseas traction and winds of flopping. A source close to the outlet has indicated that better-case scenario is that Paramount, Skydance, Fox owner Disney, and Tencent may end up eating only $110 million if Dark Fate "does have strong legs offshore." Still, Variety reports that Terminator: Dark Fate is looking at a worldwide take-home of only $180 million to $200 million dollars, and that the film would need to earn around $450 million total just to break even.

Why Terminator: Dark Fate bombed at the box office

It would be simple to say that Dark Fate tanked at the box office because critics and fans absolutely hated it and think it's a massive piece of garbage, but that would be a lie. It seems a big reason why Terminator: Dark Fate tanked financially isn't because everyone thinks the film is horrible. Rather, it appears that the films that preceded Dark Fate — the much-derided Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvationand Terminator Genisys, all of which Dark Fate actually ignores — were so bad that people aren't giving the new movie a chance. Fewer people heading out to theaters naturally means less revenue, and it looks as though this is the situation in which Dark Fate is currently stuck. 

For some fans, the fact that Terminator: Dark Fate is being touted as a franchise-reviver might instill in them a terrible sense of déjà vu. After all, 2015's Terminator Genisys was also marketed as a something of a breath of fresh air to the struggling franchise, with Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke stepping into the role of Sarah Connor, and wound up getting ripped to shreds by everyone who saw it. There's a strong chance people are afraid Dark Fate is just Genisys with different packaging — which really isn't accurate. 

Rotten Tomatoes reviews for Terminator: Dark Fate are fairly solid. The film sits at a respectable 70 percent critical rating and rocks a nice consensus: "Terminator: Dark Fate represents a significant upgrade over its immediate predecessors, even if it lacks the thrilling firepower of the franchise's best installments." Sure, some critics weren't super fond of the flick, but others found it truly enjoyable — like TheWrap's William Bibbiani, who said of Dark Fate, "This story actually demands to be told, and it gets told with precision and skill." 

For their part, fans liked Dark Fate better than critics did. The film's audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes is clocking in at 84 percent as of this writing. 

Overall, Terminator: Dark Fate may not be a mind-blowing piece of cinema or a universal crowd-pleaser, but it isn't avoid-at-all-costs awful. It's a pretty good film with pretty good ratings. But regardless of what Dark Fate has going for it — Cameron returning as producer, Schwarzenegger and Hamilton back in action, a new story to tell, passable reviews — it still floundered at the box office. Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian has said that there's a chance Dark Fate would have bombed no matter what, as "the goodwill and brand equity created by the first two Terminator films was arguably undone by the subsequent pre-Dark Fate installments, which may have negatively impacted audience interest in this latest chapter in the series." In other words, the Terminator franchise might have been too far gone for Dark Fate to succeed — irrespective of any of its merits. 

Dark Fate's failure could kill the Terminator franchise for good

Unfortunately, this may be only the beginning of an avalanche of bad news for Terminator: Dark Fate. Word on the street is that the film's disappointing opening weekend spells huge trouble for the Terminator films and for fans of the franchise: there may never be another Terminator movie because of Dark Fate

According to both box office analysts and insiders at Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media, Terminator: Dark Fate suffering such a bleak debut is "a reflection of complete IP failure" (via THR). Eric Handler, a Wall Street analyst with MKM Partners, offered a grim response to Dark Fate's box office bombing: "It is time to let this franchise finally go to the great beyond." Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock added that "this is definitely the end of the line for the Terminator franchise in its current iteration." 

Given how long the Terminator franchise has been around, there's a possibility that the IP will still exist in some capacity, but several sources have indicated that this is likely the end of the live-action, Schwarzenegger-and-Hamilton-starring Terminator film series. Bock quipped, "Expect a new series in five years on CBS All Access. Probably animated this time."

Unless Terminator: Dark Fate somehow does the impossible and earns an unthinkable amount of money in the very near future, things aren't looking good for anyone with ties to the franchise. What was intended to be the medicine to heal the film series may have made it even sicker — and possibly even pushed it to its potential impending death.