The Business of Terminator

Like John Connor, the Terminator franchise should have died several times. A dark horse script from a then-unknown James Cameron, it could have easily been shelved in 1983. But the initial success of The Terminator brought the courtship of one of Hollywood's fastest-dealing and big-spending production houses. In 1991, with Cameron still at the helm, Terminator 2: Judgment Day hauled in half a billion dollars, a handful of Academy Awards, and a place in pop culture history with the catch-phrase "I'll be back." But infighting and bankruptcy among Terminator's owners delayed the making of a third installment for over a decade. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the 2003 film directed by Jonathan Mostow, was supposed to mark the resurrection of Terminator—instead, it was nearly a death sentence. Had it not been for overseas box office receipts, T3 would have lost money and likely been put to rest for good. But The Halcyon Company stepped in, picked up the pieces, along with the rights, and got serious about salvaging the franchise. A reported $200 million budget, a deal with Christian Bale for three films, and the directorial direction of McG ensures that while mankind's future may still be uncertain, the future of the Terminator series is not.

- The reported $200 million dollar budget for Terminator Salvation is nearly twice that of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and about equal to T2's domestic gross of $205 million.

- The original Terminator film had a budget of around $6.5 million, but pulled in $78.4 million, offering a 1,200% return on investment that is still the best in the franchise.

- The filmmakers looked at shooting in Budapest, Hungary, before finding a better tax rebate in New Mexico, which offers a 25% tax refund on direct production expenditures. Budapest offered only 20%.

- Principal photography for Terminator Salvation took 110 days.

- At the height of production, 65 crew members were working on the animatronics, various terminator 'bots, related prosthetics and make-up. On set in New Mexico, 8 puppeteers manipulated Skynet's robotic soldiers.

- 6,000 gallons of gasoline and 8,000 gallons of propane were consumed, combusted and otherwise used to torch the set during filming of Terminator Salvation.

- Around 1,950 lbs. of explosives were detonated during production of Terminator Salvation, including 400 lbs. of black powder, 300 lbs. of high explosives and 1200 lbs. low explosives (flares, spark devices, smoke bombs), a pyrotechnic feat requiring 10,000 feet of detonating cord and 3,000 detonators.

- To simulate the conditions of warfare, 5,000 squibs were used to simulate everything from bullet hits to blood sprays to shrapnel sparks.

- The hard-riding production crew had to reinforce the engine casings and frames of the four Ducati motorcycles used in the film, and still managed to break two of them during shooting. They also built three tow trucks from the cab and chassis up.

- The crew was no kinder to their four-wheeled transports. Of four jeeps, one was blown up, the second dismantled for camera car shots, and a third was subjected to the whims of the stunt crew.

- Terminator 2: Judgment Day was nominated for six Academy Awards and won four for best makeup, best sound, best visual effects, and best sound effects editing.

- The Terminator franchise has grossed more than $1 Billion at box offices worldwide across three films. That doesn't include the television spin-off The Sarah Conner Chronicles, now in its second season on Fox.

- The fifth Terminator installment is slated for 2011.

Related: Hollywood's Rogue Mogul: How Terminator Director McG Is Blowing Up the Movie Business

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3 Comments

  • sam mcg

    I was so furious when they canceled the sarah connor chronicles. I just watched the last episode and it was so fast finished that I would like to see more of that series. plustv

  • hanna owen

    Those were some incredible stats of one of the known franchise of movie industry. Nothing compares to the first two movies but the terminator brand is strong and nice to see it still alive and kinking.

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    h.o.