James Cameron says 'Terminator: Dark Fate' could launch a new trilogy if it's a box-office success. We talked to experts about its chances.

terminator dark fateLinda Hamilton in &quotTerminator: Dark Fate"Paramount Pictures

  • James Cameron told Deadline that "Terminator: Dark Fate" could launch a new trilogy if it performs well at the box office.
  • "We looked at it as a three-film arc, so there is a greater story there to be told," Cameron said. "If we get fortunate enough to make some money with 'Dark Fate' we know exactly where we can go with the subsequent films."
  • But Exhibitor Relations senior box-office analyst Jeff Bock is "wary of dumping more money into this franchise," especially since Cameron will be busy with the "Avatar" sequels.
  • The Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Business Insider that the "magic formula for 'Terminator' has always been the Cameron, Schwarzenegger, Hamilton combo." All three are returning for "Dark Fate."
  • Other experts were more skeptical of "Dark Fate's" chances of reinvigorating the "Terminator" franchise.
  • "'Dark Fate' is in the challenging position of having to win back domestic audiences that felt burned by the last two or three films, and it will take more than nostalgia alone to do that," the Boxoffice Pro senior analyst Shawn Robbins told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The fate of the "Terminator" franchise could be determined by "Dark Fate."

James Cameron told Deadline on Thursday that the upcoming "Terminator: Dark Fate," which hits theaters November 1, could launch a new "Terminator" trilogy if it attracts audiences.

"We rolled up our sleeves and started to break out the story and when we got a handle on something we looked at it as a three-film arc, so there is a greater story there to be told," Cameron said. "If we get fortunate enough to make some money with 'Dark Fate' we know exactly where we can go with the subsequent films."

But that's what worries Exhibitor Relations senior box-office analyst Jeff Bock, who is "wary of dumping more money into this franchise, especially since Cameron's guidance will be limited given his immersion in the sprawling 'Avatar' universe."

"Unfortunately for [the studio ] Paramount, they are desperate for franchises right now," Bock told Business Insider. "So if this does become even a minor hit, expect more of these, in quicker succession, which is not a good thing for a series that is already hanging on by a thread."

terminator dark fateArnold Schwarzenegger in &quotTerminator: Dark Fate."Paramount Pictures

Cameron, who directed the original 1984 "Terminator" and its 1991 sequel, "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," returned to the franchise as a producer on "Dark Fate" after a three-decade absence. So did Linda Hamilton, who portrayed Sarah Connor in both movies, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It's a familiar strategy that other franchises have resorted to, most notably "Halloween." "Dark Fate" ignores the three sequels after "Judgment Day" and gets back to basics.

Last year's "Halloween" acted as a direct sequel to the 1978 original, with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role of Laurie Strode. It was a box-office hit, grossing $255 million worldwide off of a $10 million budget. Two sequels are already on the way from the production company Blumhouse.

Can "Dark Fate," which is directed by "Deadpool" director Tim Miller, replicate similar success for the "Terminator" franchise?

"The magic formula for 'Terminator' has always been the Cameron, Schwarzenegger, Hamilton combo," Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider. "With 'Dark Fate,' the bringing together of all of these essential key players is the spark that should ignite much excitement among moviegoers."

He added, "Nostalgic feelings for the the first two 'Terminator' films, particularly for the massive box-office hit and cultural and cinematic phenomenon 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day,' will be the emotional motivator that will determine the fate - bright or dark - of the future of the brand."

terminator 2 judgement day&quotTerminator 2: Judgement Day"TriStar

"Judgment Day" made $438 million domestically after adjusting for inflation, and $520 million worldwide. Its sequels haven't exactly lived up to the bar it set, despite Hollywood's several efforts.
  • "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" grossed $224 million domestically after inflation and $433 million worldwide.
  • "Terminator Salvation" made $151 million after inflation in the US and $371 million globally.
  • "Terminator Genisys" is the lowest-grossing movie in the franchise domestically with $98 million after inflation, but earned $440 million worldwide with a smaller budget than its two predecessors.

Some experts are more skeptical of "Dark Fate's" ability to breathe new life into "Terminator."

"If the film is good, and it must necessarily be very good for this to succeed, there is a chance for a revival of the franchise," Box Office Analyst's Doug Stone said.

"Salvation" and "Genisys" received awful reviews, which could have done damage to their box office. "Salvation" has a 33% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, while "Genisys" has an even worse 26%.

"'Dark Fate' is in the challenging position of having to win back domestic audiences that felt burned by the last two or three films, and it will take more than nostalgia alone to do that," Shawn Robbins, the Box Office Pro senior analyst, said.

Stone pointed to 2017's "Blade Runner 2049" as an example of how difficult it can be to resurrect a franchise, even if a movie is well reviewed. The movie brought back Harrison Ford, who starred in the 1982 original, and received an 87% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. It cost $150 million to make, but earned just $92 million domestically.

Like "Terminator Genisys," though, the international box office helped boost it to a more healthy, but still not great, total, and it ultimately grossed $259 million worldwide.

"The prospects for Paramount making money [with 'Dark Fate'] are not that bad," Stone said. It all depends on "the story, the execution, and the interest the public still retains after these decades."
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