The generally terrible Terminator: Genisys had a generally terrible weekend at the domestic box office, earning a mere $42m across the five-day July 4th holiday. It had been projected to make at least $55m, which was itself seen as a disappointing total. Paramount would kill to have that now. A $42m debut for a movie which cost $155m to make is awful, especially when you consider the following: Since 2001, the big July 4th openers (Scary Movie 2, Men in Black 2, Terminator 3, Spider-Man 2, War of the Worlds, Superman Returns, Transformers, Hancock, Twilight: Eclipse, The Last Airbender, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Lone Ranger) have been remarkably front-loaded, earning roughly half of their final domestic total in their first five days. The only recent July 4th openers to buck that trend have been The Devil Wars Prada, Despicable Me 2, Tammy and Ice Age 3. Based upon its dreadful word-of-mouth, it seems highly unlikely that Genisys will join that pack. Instead, it’s now looking at a final domestic total of $85m-$90m, which is around where The Lone Ranger ($89m) ended up two years ago (although Ranger’s budget was also $50m-$65m higher).
Not that any of this is a surprise. There has been bad buzz about Genisys since before it was even officially a thing, like how fans would groan back when it was just Arnold Schwarzenegger telling anyone who would listen how much he wanted to make sequels to Conan, Terminator and Twins. Once it officially became a thing the plot they conjured up – a J.J. Abrams Star Trek/Back to the Future 2-style franchise reboot where we see an alternate version of the 1984 Terminator before actually jumping into the future to stop Judgement Day – sounded like a bad idea. When HitFix’s Drew McWeeny read the script in April 2014, he was perplexed, “There are some great ideas in the Terminator: Genesis script, and I’m not surprised by that. Laeta Kalorgridis and Patrick Lussier are both very strong writers, and I’ve liked a lot of their work in the past. I’m still not entirely sure I’m getting anything new from this, or that it has to be made […] This might be the most interesting version of [treading water] that I’ve read. I’m curious to see if the final film tells me that it is a necessary story.”
And that was before they changed the title from Terminator: Gensis to Terminator: Genisys, seemingly just to bait us all into mocking them.
Very early on in the process Paramount aggressively dated two sequels (5/19/17 and 6/29/18), and we heard they would be filmed back-to-back over 9 months. It was very telling that as Genisys went deeper into production and post-production and rapidly approached its release date we heard less and less about the sequels and proposed spin-off TV series. Everyone pulled way the hell back. The producers, director and stars all sang the same tune on the promotional tour: any continuation of the franchise from this point forward would have to be decided by the fans, with the actors only very begrudgingly admitting they’re signed up for sequels.
It remains to be seen if those sequel options ever get exercised, although after this domestic flop the chances don’t look good. Bad movies make tons of money all the time. Why didn’t Genisys pull the same trick at the domestic market? Well, using Forbes’ recent list as a template, here are 6 potential reasons:
1. The marketing was terrible.From the moment the title was changed from “Genesis” to “Genisys” and publicity photos (which looked horrible) and plot details (Sarah’s now been raised by an aging T-800 model Terminator she calls “Pops”!) were first released through an Entertainment Weekly cover story, it was an uphill battle for Paramount. The first trailer and subsequent Super Bowl ad did little to move the needle. Out of desperation (and possibly in response to a script leak), they opted to spoil the film’s big plot twist in the second trailer, much to the chagrin of the screenwriters and director (Alan Taylor). Worse yet, the fan reaction to the plot twist seemed to be a healthy dosage of internet snark followed by a yawn. Their final Hail Mary was to attain the public endorsement of James Cameron himself, hoping we’d at least accept the word of the man who wrote and directed Terminator 1 and 2. So rather than run with pull-quotes from random film critics as per usual, the latest TV spots feature quotes from Cameron, who we are supposed to believe truly meant it when he said “Terminator has been reinvigorated” and “The twist is more than you expected” and especially “You will love this movie.” As Schwarzenegger accurately argued, running with an endorsement from Cameron gave fans the impression that Genisys was a movie which needed to be saved, and most were too cynical to really believe Cameron meant what he said.
2. The reviews were just as bad.
Because Genisys first opened in several small foreign markets the embargo on reviews was lifted earlier than normal. That works if your movie is good. Genisys is very much so not good, and a week prior to its domestic release it was already drowning in terrible reviews, a 27% RottenTomatoes rating from critics and 4.7/10 on IMDB from fans. Some movies are review-proof, but a franchise re-launch coming off of two disliked sequels needs the boost of people telling skeptical fans, “No, seriously, this is actually really good.” The only one who seemed to trumping that horn for Genisys was James Cameron.
3. Damn you, Jurassic World!
Whenever a movie like Jurassic World comes around and over-performs it inevitably alters the box office landscape for at least a month because none of the movies coming out after it had any idea what they were really going up against. In May 2012, Universal seriously underestimated The Avengers, thinking that their big budget Hasbro adaptation Battleship would be safe opening two weeks after Avengers. Instead it bombed. Director Peter Berg’s plea for moviegoers to stop going back to see The Avengers for the second, third, fourth or whatever time and give his movie a chance fell on deaf ears.
However, the disruption doesn’t even have to just come from a movie making over a billion worldwide like Jurassic World. It can also be Inside Out, which is performing far better than a normal Pixar movie would. Both Jurassic and Inside Out are broadly appealing, still going strong, wiping out more niche-y entertainment like Ted 2. That’s what Genisys and Magic Mike XXL had to contend with. The two biggest movies of the day were supposed to be winding down, but instead they are still clinging to the top spots on the chart.
4. Stop with the PG-13 for what used to be an R-Rated franchise
From Robo-Cop to Total Recall to [take your pick] the trend of turning what was once an R-rated franchise to a more broadly appealing PG-13 almost never works. It mostly serves to annoy the existing audience and fails to gain a significant new audience. Genisys played 65% over 25-years-old, suggesting that the PG-13 cash grab did little to bring new fans.
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new movies mostly bomb (in the US/Canada)
Of his post-governator films, only Escape Plan and cameos in the Expendables films topped $25m in America. However, go back even further than that, and you’ll find that other than Terminator 3 Schwarzenegger hasn’t had a hit in a starring-vehice since Eraser in 1996. It’s been a gradual decline ever since then, e.g., End of Days, The Sixth Day, and Collateral, merely interrupted by his time driving California into bankruptcy and drought.
That being said, it’s actually a shame that his newer movies are getting the cold shoulder because they’ve been fairly interesting, each one acknowledging his age. The Last Stand, in particular, is an insanely fun action movie, and his work in the moody zombie drama Maggie is admirable. Heck, he’s actually really good in Genisys.
6. While trying to please the hardcore fans and gain new ones they ended up pleasing no one (other than James Cameron)
Nostalgia has its limits. After Jurassic World, a bunch of dinosaur movies were greenlit, a Top Gun 2 oddly moved forward, and Independence Day: Resurgence seemed to pick up some buzz. When attempting to explain World’s box office success, I pointed to just how big of a deal the first Jurassic Park was at the box office and in pop culture in 1993 as evidence for why a new installment would have a such a nostalgic hold over audiences taking their kids. Well, Terminator 2 came out in 1991, and it became the third highest grossing film of all time to that point. “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby” were all over the place, on T-shirts, quoted on TV shows, etc. Shouldn’t Genisys, which just like Jurassic World chose to ignore the two franchise sequels people didn’t like as much, have struck a similar nostalgic chord?
It kind of did. A $44m opening frame is bad, but it’s not an R.I.P.D.-like bomb either. But World quickly became the highest-grossing Jurassic Park movie ever while Genisys could end up the lowest-grossing Terminator movie since the first one. What happened? As Forbes put it:
The difference between Terminator Genisys and Jurassic World is pretty straightforward: Jurassic World offered a film that was plenty exciting even if you had zero strong feelings about the Jurassic Park franchise or were too young for nostalgia. It also had a killer hook (The park is open!) and a present-tense movie star (Chris Pratt) to entice those on the fence, and the film just plain looked good and looked like spectacular big-screen entertainment.
Terminator Genisys offered basically a tweaked variation of what you’ve already seen before, with the same would-be movie star who was a big deal in the 1990′s and the anti-Chris Pratt in Jai Courtney. It looked at best to be a passable Saturday matinee option, but the reviews squandered even that potential. The key appeal of Terminator Genisys was merely that it was another Terminator movie, with little to offer moviegoers who had no emotional attachment to such a thing. And the film’s big reveal was ironically something that was supposed to happen in Terminator Salvation but was altered after the script leaked and fans cried foul, which means that the very hardcore fans were already on the attack even before reviews confirmed the worst.
Now, Paramount’s Vice Chairman, Rob Moore, is out there trying to put a shine on this turd, “There is no question that the U.S. market got affected by reviews, but through the weekend, we actually played above what people thought we would,” he told THR, “And the international numbers are spectacular.”
He’s not exaggerating. Genisys made $74m from around 60% of the international marketplace this weekend after having done fairly well in several small markets last weekend. It still has big hitters like China, Japan, Germany, Italy and Spain on the way, and the industry trades think it has a shot at ending up with an overseas total in the $300m-$400m range, which would be three to four times its domestic total. It could become the next Pacific Rim, which barely crossed $100m domestic but made $411m worldwide and has a sequel and animated series on the way.
Or not. McG truly believed he’d get to make a Terminator: Salvation sequel, optimistically telling IGN , “But the film will end up doing about $400 million bucks and internationally it was very well received – better than it was here in the States.” It actually fell short of $400m (just $371m worldwide), and the production company went bankrupt. That was meant to be the beginning of a new trilogy, but instead it ended up in bankruptcy court. Genisys is similarly meant to kickstart a trilogy. I doubt it will drive anyone into bankruptcy, not when its production company, SkyDance Pictures, is also responsible for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Star Trek 3, but a sequel still seems like a long shot at this point. Unlike Pacific Rim, there don’t appear to be a whole lot of fans rallying to support/defend Genisys, although I have noticed more “It’s not that bad” comments on Twitter in the past 2 days.
A terrible movie like Genisys shouldn’t be allowed to cinematically procreate. A line must been drawn here. This far. No further!
1) Inside Out
- Production Budget=$65m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$29.7m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$18.6m
2) Jurassic World
- Production Budget=$150m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$29.2m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$42m
3) Terminator: Genisys (Domestic Debut)
- Production Budget=$155m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$27m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$74m
4) Magic Mike XXL (Worldwide Debut)
- Production Budget=$15m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$12.8m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$6.2m
This is well below what had been expected for XXL. The first Magic Mike is considered a sleeper hit even though it opened to $39.1m. Matthew McConaughey’s absence from the shirtless fun time didn’t help neither did the fact that 96% of the opening audience was female. That’s insane. The first Magic Mike played 73% female in its opening. So, far fewer homosexual men and boyfriends dragged by girlfriends to see XXL. “I’m definitely down, but not out. When you have a movie that plays this strongly to women, it should begin over-indexing this week as females settle in after the holiday,” said Warners domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman. “And the film will be profitable, it’s just a question of how high we go. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.”
5) Ted 2
- Production Budget=$68m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$11.1m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$8.8m
- Production Budget=$20m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$6.6m
- Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
- Domestic Total: $25.3m
- Production Budget=$65m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$5.1m
- Weekend Gross (International)=$3.4m
8) San Andreas
- Production Budget=$110m
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.8m
- Weekend Gross (International)=Total not available
9) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
- Production Budget=They’re not telling
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.2m
- Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
- Total Debut: $3.9m
- Production Budget=They’re not telling
- Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.1m
- Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
- Total Debut: $14.1m
What Left the Top 10?: Mad Max: Fury Road (Current total: $149m domestic/$358m worldwide on a $150m prod. budget) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (Current total: $454.1m domestic/$1.38b worldwide), Insidious Chapter 3 (Current total: $51m domestic/$93m worldwide), – Those are franchise lows for Chapter 3 after Insidious Chapter 2 set franchise highs with $83m domestic and $161m worldwide
What’s Up Next?: Minions has already scored $124m overseas, and now it hits North America, Universal getting a taste of its own Jurassic World medicine since they likely did not anticipate Inside Out still being this strong this close to Minions‘ release. Elsewhere, WB is opening the horror flick The Gallows, and Focus Features, Universal’s art-house division, is running with the Ryan Reynolds sci-fi thriller Self/Less.