Hollywood's wannabe blockbuster got bounced by an indie film focusing on free speech's decline.
The box office battle between “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “No Safe Spaces” looked like a mismatch … on paper.
The former features fading star Arnold Schwarzenegger in his signature franchise, along with returning player Linda Hamilton. The latter? Conservative talker Dennis Prager isn’t exactly a movie star, and Adam Carolla’s big screen credits include a few smart indie efforts (“The Hammer,” “Road Hard”).
Turns out David beat Goliath … again … in two big city face offs Monday.
“Terminator: Dark Fate,” a franchise sequel with all the marketing muscle Paramount could muster, lost to “No Safe Spaces” Nov. 4 in both San Diego and Denver.
The Carolla/Prager docudrama, detailing serial assaults on free speech on colleges nationwide, has been a surprise hit in its first few days of limited release.
The Phoenix nationwide opener scored the second highest per-screen average for a documentary ever, beaten only by Michael Moore’s “Sicko” in 2007.
The film expanded to Denver and San Diego over the weekend, putting up an impressive second place finish in both markets to “Dark Fate.” The numbers proved shockingly close, though.
“It’s always great to win, but for our little film to finish second to the mighty Terminator in its opening weekend is just crazy, so we’ll happily be #2,” Carolla said in a press statement. “All I have to say to Arnold is: ‘I’ll Be Back!’ Denver.”
Indeed. The docudrama closed the gap yesterday.
The Highlands Ranch theater in Colorado, roughly a half hour drive from downtown Denver, saw “NSS” earn $2,162 Monday compared to “Terminator’s” $1,851.
The story proved similar at Parkway Plaza in San Diego. That theater had “NSS” generating $1,009 to “Terminator’s” $992.
“Robots and monsters are great,” “No Safe Spaces” producer Mark Joseph said in a statement, “but our film shows that there’s a hunger for something more that both entertains and brings people together on the things we can agree on.”
Critics were more kind to “Dark Fate,” giving the film a 70 percent “Fresh” rating at RottenTomatoes.com. “No Safe Spaces,” with far less published reviews, sits at 50 percent “rotten” at the moment – though audiences give it a perfect 100 percent score.
“No Safe Spaces” expands to more theaters Nov. 8, with a wider release coming Nov. 15.