China Box Office: 'Terminator: Dark Fate' Self-Destructs, Opening in Second Place

Terminator: Dark Fate Still 14 - Publicity - H 2019
Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures

Chinese filmgoers rescued the last Terminator film — 2015's 'Terminator: Genisys' — with local ticket sales totaling $113 million. Tim Miller's new installment is getting no such boost, however.

Skydance, Paramount and Fox/Disney's Terminator: Dark Fate made its high-stakes debut in China over the weekend — and the results were arguably even more disappointing than the movie's disastrous U.S. opening.

The pricey tentpole, which marked the return of franchise creator James Cameron as a producer, opened to just $28 million in China, losing badly to holdover local drama Better Days, which earned $42.6 million, according to Asia box office tracker Artisan Gateway.

In North America, Dark Fate opened with $29 million; globally it has brought in just $123.6 million.

Dark Fate's soft start in China is especially ominous news for the film's producers given that the preceding film in the Terminator franchise, 2015's Terminator: Genisys, totaled a hefty $113 million there. Those strong China results — which were significantly better than its North American total of $89.7 million — helped rescue Genisys from box office disaster.

No such luck this time around.

Dark Fate has earned a so-so 8.6/10 social score on local ticketing service Maoyan, slightly less than Genisys' 8.9/10. Filmgoers are showing clear preference for the new installment's competition. Better Days — a dark coming-of-age drama about high school life in China — has climbed to $164.1 million after just two weekends with a Maoyan score of 9.5/10. Imported Japanese anime hit Weathering With You, meanwhile, opened opposite Dark Fate with a score of 9.1/10, earning a healthy $22.1 million — despite costing less than 1/10th to produce. 

China's own Tencent Pictures bought a 10 percent equity stake in Dark Fate prior to its completion. The marketing and distribution support from one of China's most powerful Internet companies had little impact on the film's local fortunes though. 

A direct sequel to Cameron's classic Terminator: Judgment Day (1991), the R-rated Dark Fate was directed by Deadpool helmer Tim Miller and cost a hefty $185 million to produce before marketing. Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the iconic T-800 "Model 101" both returned for the new film, with support from newcomers Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta.

Overall, China's box office is up 7.5 percent for the year. Roland Emmerich's WWII action flick Midway, with heavy backing from Beijing-based Bona Film Group, is the next major English-language feature scheduled to land in China, opening Friday.