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‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ is No. 1, but it’s no winner

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator: Dark Fate." (Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures via AP)

LOS ANGELES — It might be judgment day for the Terminator franchise.

Despite generally favorable reviews and the return of star Linda Hamilton and producer James Cameron, “Terminator: Dark Fate” has opened well below expectations at the box office. Studios on Sunday estimate that “Dark Fate” earned only $29 million from over 4,000 North American locations. The film from Paramount Pictures cost a reported $185 million to produce.

It was enough to win the top spot at the box office, but it’s a weak victory for the franchise. Although “Dark Fate,” which was directed by “Deadpool’s” Tim Miller, received much better reviews (currently at 69% on Rotten Tomatoes) and was praised for being a return to form to Cameron’s original films, it opened just slightly ahead of 2015’s roundly derided “Terminator: Genisys.”

“These big brands carry with them huge expectations, often unrealistic expectations,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “It wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm for the stars and filmmakers.”

Internationally, “Dark Fate” did much better, earning $72.9 million from 48 markets. Fox International, not Paramount, is handling international distribution, excluding China.

Second place went to “Joker,” which added $13.9 million, bringing its global earnings to $934 million in just five weeks in theaters. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” landed in third place in its third weekend with an additional $12.2 million. The Angelina Jolie-led sequel has grossed $84.3 million in North America.

One bright spot of the weekend, which is down nearly 19% from last year when “Bohemian Rhapsody” opened, is Focus Features’ “Harriet,” which is the first film ever made about Harriet Tubman. Starring Cynthia Erivo in the title role, “Harriet” performed better than expected, earning $12 million from just over 2,000 theaters to take fourth place. The film scored a coveted A+ CinemaScore from audiences, who were primarily female (62 and over the age of 35 (59%). African Americans also made up a significant portion of the audience (49%) according to exit polls.

“It’s really heartwarming and gives you a lot of faith that there are still a lot of people who want to see stories about real life superheroes,” said Focus Features distribution president Lisa Bunnell. “There’s a real feeling of love for this movie. I think it’s inspirational for people to see.”

Focus did outreach to faith-based groups and educators and has seen enormous success with group sales as a result.

Other newcomers struggled to find that kind of enthusiasm this weekend. Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn” opened in ninth place to $3.7 million, while the animated “Arctic Dogs” took 10th with $3.1 million.