Movies

Why this November's big movie releases have been flopping at the box office

Key Points
  • It started with the release of "Terminator: Dark Fate." Despite reviews suggesting it was better than the previous three sequels, it made only $29 million at the domestic box office its opening weekend.
  • The following weekend, "Doctor Sleep" opened. A sequel to Stephen King's "The Shining," it was expected to take the number one spot and earn between $25 million and $35 million at the box office.
  • Finally, there was the Kristen Stewart-led reboot of "Charlie's Angels," which premiered November 15. It earned $9 million at the domestic box office.
Terminator Dark Fate
Source: Paramount Pictures

This November has been a rough one at the nation's multiplexes. Most of the high-profile movies released so far this month have underperformed, to degrees ranging from the disappointing to the disastrous.

It started with the release of "Terminator: Dark Fate." Despite reviews suggesting it was better than the previous three sequels, it made only $29 million at the domestic box office its opening weekend, leading Variety to speculate that it may well mean the end of this franchise.

The following weekend, "Doctor Sleep" opened. A sequel to Stephen King's "The Shining," it was expected to take the number one spot and earn between $25 million and $35 million at the box office. Despite favorable reviews, it did neither, earning just $14 million.

Finally, there was the Kristen Stewart-led reboot of "Charlie's Angels," which premiered November 15. It earned $9 million at the domestic box office, which the entertainment publication Deadline characterized as "god-awful."

So what happened? Are filmgoers choosing to see "Joker" for the third time and then going home to watch Disney+, or is there a systemic problem causing them to stay away from these new movies?

According to Brad Wyman, producer of the Charlize Theron movie "Monster" and CEO of the box office movie game Moviefeud, there are a few different factors at play. One of those factors is that the "Terminator" franchise has worn out its welcome.

"In my opinion, the 'Terminator' franchise should have been shelved a long time ago," he said. "I sure had no interest in seeing it, and neither did my 16- and 18-year-old boys."

In the case of "Doctor Sleep," Wyman said that too much time had passed since 1980s "The Shining" for the new film to have much resonance with younger viewers. He also said that just because the original is an acknowledged masterpiece by a great auteur, that doesn't necessarily translate to ticket sales.

"'Doctor Sleep' was a sequel made 40 years after 'The Shining,'" he said. "'The Shining' is also a classic, almost a cult film, not a box office hit. It is more liked by film lovers and filmmakers."

Film critic and entertainment reporter Jackson Murphy agreed, and said this problem applied not just to "Doctor Sleep" but to "Terminator: Dark Fate" as well.

"Both 'Terminator: Dark Fate' and 'Doctor Sleep' are sequels to films that most younger adult moviegoers never saw and have no connection to," he said. "Yes, both are pretty good, but that doesn't matter."

In the case of "Charlie's Angels," Murphy said that the movie never had a chance to begin with. There was no audience clamoring for a reboot of a campy 1970s television show, he said, particularly one that had already been rebooted once before.

Digital marketing consultant Dan Ortiz agreed.

"A lot of folks in the industry are asking openly, did we really need a 'Charlie's Angels' reboot?" he said. "The original TV property is dated as it is, and the Cameron Diaz / Lucy Liu glory days of the film franchise are even a tad dated at this point… It was never 100% clear if the movie was made for Millennials, or their parents, or vice versa."

While Ortiz acknowledged that this had been a rough month so far, he didn't believe it's time to panic just yet. He said that it's not uncommon for movie theaters to see business slow down at this time of year, mainly since many consumers are saving their money for the holidays.

He added that once such blockbusters as "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" and "Frozen 2" are released, the movie industry would quickly emerge from its doldrums. "Frozen 2" opened Friday and has been projected to earn as much as $135 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, so if it meets expectations, this rough patch is likely to be forgotten.

Movie producer Wyman agreed that with the upcoming release of these holiday blockbusters, the movie industry would breathe a sigh of relief and see its coffers filled with moviegoer dollars yet again. But while he said that box office receipts are down 10% from last year, it doesn't mean that the movie industry is facing an existential crisis.

"The movie business did $9.6 billion thus far at the box office," he said. "People are still going to the movies."