Terminator 2: Judgment Day

As movie studios continue to build toward dark, dystopian futures in which man is a pawn in the face of unstoppable franchise release dates, it’s interesting to see what happens when some factor in the past—say, the box-office underperformance of an attempt to relaunch a beloved action series into a prospective new trilogy—disrupts the cold logic of the Hollywood machine.

That’s the dilemma facing the producers behind Terminator: Just Throw Some Y’s In There Until It Sounds Like It’s From The Future, which was originally planned to act as a lead-in to two sequel films set to debut in 2017 and 2018. But instead of being the massive, Jurassic World-esque blockbuster Paramount and Skydance Productions seemed to expect from a team-up between a 67-year-old action star and the dragon lady from Game Of Thrones, the film has merely doubled its $150 million budget, earning it the label of “bubble” film, the bane of sequel hunters everywhere. Bubble films are those that succeed only modestly, forcing executives to think seriously about whether to greenlight a sequel, instead of just slamming their cash-filled fists down on the big green “GO!” button, the way they like to do.

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As discussed in an analysis piece by The Hollywood Reporter, the bubble phenomenon has produced unpredictable results for Hollywood sequel makers in recent years. Pacific Rim and Jack Reacher, for instance, were both considered weak at the box office, in a market where a truly successful film can now earn back as much as ten times its budget during the course of its run. (Jurassic World cost the same amount to make as Terminator, and has already cruised comfortably past the $1 billion mark.) But both films earned sequels, due to strong showings in international markets.

It’s unclear whether Terminator will meet a similar fate; the Reporter couldn’t find anyone involved in the production who was willing to talk on the record, but quotes a source as saying the fates of the proposed sequels are in no way certain. If they do pull back on extending the franchise, it’ll be one of the first notable failures in the recent trend of studios announcing massive, five-year plans for their various franchises and cinematic dynasties, and a reminder to Terminator fans that there’s no fate, except what we make at the box office.