Features and Columns · Movies

Audience Vs. Predator: Requiem

With ‘The Predator’ underperforming at the box office, perhaps it’s time to lay the franchise to rest.
By  · Published on September 17th, 2018

For Shane Black‘s sake, at least The Predator performed better than The Nice Guys in its opening weekend. But in any other context, the latest installment of the Predator franchise is something of a failure. Never mind the fact that The Predator was #1 at the box office in its debut. Movie attendance is generally low this time of year — this makes a movie like The Predator look more successful than it is. Had the sequel opened any of the other weekends it was previously slated for, it would not have stood out so prominently.

About 2.6 million people went to see The Predator over the weekend. The original release date for the movie was March 2nd, at which time Marvel’s Black Panther was dominating the box office (that was its third weekend and it was still in first place with 7.2 million tickets sold). Then The Predator was moved to February 9th, where it would have been buried by Fifty Shades Freed but maybe even Peter Rabbit (4.2 million and 2.7 million tickets sold, respectively). And if The Predator had opened August 3rd, as last planned, it would have been behind Mission: Impossible – Fallout (3.8 million tickets in its second weekend) and maybe even Christopher Robin, which also saw about 2.6 million people in its debut.

That’s right, The Predator just barely attracted the same size crowd as Winnie the Pooh — a character who traditionally disappoints at the box office and saw now exception last month. Predator has also never been a big draw as a franchise. The 1987 original was a hit because of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 2004 crossover AVP: Alien Vs. Predator was a success because of it mashed up two series and promised a fight worthy of that concept. Everything else has performed rather poorly, and The Predator, despite being the only other #1 opener, saw one of the worst debuts of the franchise.

Here’s a history of the Predator movies’ success (and lack thereof):

Predator (1987) – With mixed reviews (45 score on Metacritic) and a so-so response from moviegoers (‘B+’ grade via CinemaScore), the original dropped in summer and initially sold 3.1 million tickets on 1600 screens (for a per-screen average of 1900 tickets). That was the second-best opening of 1987 (better than Bond). Its final domestic attendance was five times that opening, at 15.3 million bodies in seats, placing it 12th for the year. And its worldwide box office of $98 million looked pretty spectacular (as did even its domestic gross of $59.7 million) against its reported $15 million budget.

Predator 2 (1990) – With critical reception similar to the original (46 score on Metacritic), and the same response from moviegoers (‘B+’ grade via CinemaScore), the second installment opened in November opposite another sequel to a 1987 hit (Three Men and a Little Lady), which was one of three releases to draw bigger crowds the same weekend. Selling just 2.1 million tickets in its debut, that was on only about 2,000 screens (for a per-screen average of 1100 tickets). The movie’s final ticket tally was less than half the original at 7.3 million. With a domestic gross of $30.1 million against a reported $35 million budget, it was a bomb.

AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (2004) – Despite dropping even further with critics (29 score on Metacritic) and fans (‘B’ grade via CinemaScore), the crossover gave both the Alien and the Predator franchises their respective best opening weekend attendance yet. The side-sequel came in first place for its mid-August debut, initially selling 6.2 million tickets on 3400 screens (for a per-screen average of 1800 tickets). Ultimately, its final domestic attendance was under the first three Alien movies and the original Predator movie, at 12.9 million tickets sold. The movie’s $80.3 million domestic gross and $172.5 million worldwide gross were incredible against its reported $60 million budget.

Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) – The follow-up to the first showdown between Xenomorph and Yautja was not nearly as successful. With a similar critical reception (29 score on Metacritic) but much lower favor from the fans (‘C’ grade via CinemaScore), this crossover drew only 1.5 million people its first weekend on 2600 screens (for a per-screen average of just 600). Oddly released on Christmas Day, the second AVP came in sixth place in its debut and went on to sell just 5.9 million tickets total in North America. Fortunately, the sequel did perform much greater overseas. While it did just $41.8 million domestic, the movie grossed $128.9 million worldwide against its reported $40 million budget.

Predators (2010) – For its next trick, the Predator franchise returned without the Alien cross-draw and managed a decent revival. Reviews were still mixed but the best yet (51 score on Metacritic), while the fans were only slightly more positive with this than Requiem (‘C+’ grade via CinemaScore), and its attendance over its mid-summer debut weekend was the best for the Predator franchise’s solo run at 3.2 million. Still, it only came in third place, behind the also-opening Despicable Me and the third Twilight movie in its second weekend, and its per-screen average (1200 tickets) wasn’t also the series’ best because its screen count was much higher at almost 2700. Its final domestic attendance was about twice as much as its debut, with 6.7 million. Of course, again, worldwide gross ($127.2 million) made up for its disappointing domestic ($52 million) against its reported $40 million budget.

The Predator (2018) – Another chance for Fox to really resurrect the franchise is not much better. The new sequel has received its usually mixed reviews from top critics (51 score on Metacritic) but the fans aren’t really showing a lot of love (‘C+’ grade via CinemaScore). Its debut attendance rounds up to 2.6 million, but that’s over 4,000 screens (for a per-screen average of 600 — same as Requiem). The worst attendance ever for a live-action movie on so many screens, even worse than prior dishonored champion The Mummy. Compared to its forecast numbers, back in July, Box Office Pro originally had predicted the equivalent of 7 million tickets sold and then last week upped the anticipation to 7.3 million tickets for its debut, meaning The Predator underperformed against even modest expectations. Of course, again the worldwide gross will help but while the sequel opened better in Russia than Predators, and not as good in the UK, it could top out lower than the previous installment. And this one’s budget is reportedly much higher, at $88 million.

The Predator‘s debut saw a much lower attendance than the latest Alien installment, Alien: Covenant, saw in its opening weekend last year, and if we ignored the international numbers on that one it’d be a possible franchise killer. Have we reason to believe we’ve seen the last of its sibling series, too? The Predator sets up a sequel that would bring the franchise even further from its roots as a small-scale one-man-versus-one-creature feature and the likelihood of even further diminishing returns. But as long as Hollywood is still stuck in its rut of only focusing on familiar IPs it already has, we probably see another one of these.

In other box office news, all three of the other wide new releases — A Simple Favor, White Boy Rick, and Unbroken: Path to Redemption — overperformed compared to Box Office Pro predictions. The best per-screen averages went to the limited releases Museo (1900 tickets at one location), Lizzie (1300 tickets at four locations), and the documentary Science Fair (1300 tickets at one location). For continuing titles, The Meg continued to prove its worthiness for a sequel as it surpassed $500 million worldwide, and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation quietly became its franchise’s best by also reaching the same global milestone.

Here are the weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. The Predator – 2.6 million (2.6 million)
2. The Nun – 1.9 million (9.1 million)
3. A Simple Favor – 1.7 million (1.7 million)
4. White Boy Rick – 0.94 million (1 million)
5. Crazy Rich Asians – 0.93 million (15.9 million)
6. Peppermint – 0.6 million (2.6 million)
7. The Meg – 0.4 milllion (14.6 million)
8. Searching – 0.3 million (2.1 million)
9. Unbroken: Path to Redemption – 0.251 million (0.251 million)
10. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – 0.247 million (23 million)

All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.