Weekend Wrap-Up

Memorial Day Weekend Disappoints at Box Office

By John Hamann

May 24, 2009

I'm a two-time Academy Award nominee. Why am I in this with you?

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That brings us to number two, and if we know that Night at the Museum 2 grossed $53.5 million in the number one spot, the news for Terminator Salvation can't be great, and if someone trotted out the word "disaster" I wouldn't completely disagree.

After opening Wednesday night to $3 million from midnight screenings, and an additional $13 million on Thursday, Terminator Salvation only increased its take from Thursday by 14% on Friday, recording a gross of $14.9 million. If you read David Mumpower's analysis regarding the Thursday box office for Terminator, you know the suits at Warner Bros. are suicidal this morning. David looked for a worst-case scenario of a 25% increase from Thursday-to-Friday, so to basically get half that amount spells serious trouble. Terminator Salvation finished this weekend with a disappointing Friday-to-Sunday gross of only $43 million, and has earned $56.4 million since it opened. This one cost $200 million to make, and from my point of view had a much bigger ad budget than Night at the Museum did by a country mile. This is an ugly opening considering that Adam Sandler's The Longest Yard took in $47.6 million over Memorial Day Weekend in 2005, finishing second behind Revenge of the Sith.

By taking John Connor into the future, and replacing Arnie with Batman, Termination Salvation should have been huge. A franchise re-invention a la Star Trek this one wasn't, and when reviews started coming in, the writing was on the wall. Surprisingly, this has traditionally been a well-reviewed franchise. T2 is 97% fresh at RottenTomatoes, and T3 was 70% fresh. Audiences expect good, solid action films from this franchise with a touch of humor and humanity. With Salvation, Terminator fans got a 38% fresh effects-extravaganza without the humor or the heart. That was enough to put me off seeing it, as personally, a Terminator movie without Arnold is just I, Robot, and that's not saying much.


Terminator Salvation should have been the movie to turn Christian Bale into Harrison Ford, working on multiple super-successful franchises concurrently. Bale's success in The Dark Knight should have carried over to Terminator, but it inexplicably didn't, maybe due to the wooden style the actor portrayed in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Bale still has another shot at summer box office glory as the busy actor next appears in Public Enemies, which opens in early July. He co-stars with Johnny Depp in the Michael Mann film. However, for now, Bale has to be wondering about opportunities lost, as this result could make Terminator 5 a no go.

Finishing third this weekend is Star Trek, which managed to get ahead of Angels & Demons, the movie that won the weekend in the last frame. Star Trek, now in its third weekend, didn't have that great of a weekend either. The rebooted franchise earned $22 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, giving it a bigger than expected drop of 44%. Usually long weekends make way for lower percentage drops, as there is more time to see a film. Last year over Memorial Day, Iron Man dropped 36% in its fourth frame. An argument could be made that with the two top films opening so wide, there was little room left for a film Star Trek, but that doesn't work as Paramount added almost 200 more venues to Trek's run. What the space actioner did lose was its access to IMAX screens, so the inflated prices at about 200 venues is now gone, which may have led to the higher percentage drop. Star Trek will have to wait another weekend to cross the $200 million mark, as its current total sits at $183.6 million.

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