Over the past few years, there has been debate over the social impact James Cameron’s Avatar. Nearly seven years after its release, few may be able to name any memorable characters or lines of dialogue, but there is one number that keeps it relevant: 2,787,965,087---the amount of money it earned worldwide, making it the highest grossing film of all time. But Avatar isn’t a one-hit wonder for its director. Cameron’s seven widely-released films have grossed more than six billion dollars combined. The average among those would be a top-50 all-time film. The only film that didn’t reach $100 million domestically when adjusted for inflation is his breakout The Terminator. That film grossed over 6 times its budget domestically.
The box office numbers for Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day may not be as gaudy as Avatar or Titanic [which combined account for nearly two-thirds of the director’s total adjusted gross], but there are plenty of interesting facts to glean from these more modestly successful films.
Aliens total lifetime gross: $85,160,248 domestic, $45,900,000 foreign. Adjusted for inflation, the total domestic gross comes to $196,947,400.
Aliens was the #1 film at the box office for its first four weeks in theaters. It was eventually unseeded by David Cronenberg’s The Fly. It remained in the top five for nine weeks. Captain America: Civil War finished in the top five for only its first four weeks.
Not surprisingly, James Cameron holds two top-ten films for most consecutive #1 finishes---Titanic #1 with 15 and Avatar #10 with 7. Aliens’s four weeks at number one is tied for 25th all-time with 21 other films, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Dark Knight, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Aliens reported budget was $18.5 million, which when adjusted for ticket price inflation comes to about $40 million today. 2016 films with the same or higher production budget: Zoolander 2, Central Intelligence, The Conjuring 2, Free State of Jones, and Ride Along 2. The film grossed about five times its budget on domestic returns alone.
Aliens ended as the 7th highest grossing film of 1986. The top three films that year were Top Gun [$176 mil], Crocodile Dundee [$174 mil], and Platoon [$138 mil]. It was the second highest R-rated film of the year, behind Platoon.
Aliens is the second highest grossing film of its franchise, only behind 2011 release Prometheus [$126 mil]. When adjusting for inflation, however, it soars past Prometheus by over $60 mil.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day total lifetime gross:$204,843,345 domestic, $315,000,000 foreign. Adjusted for inflation, the total domestic gross comes to $417,471,700.
The #1 film of 1991, Terminator 2 grossed $39 million more than its closest competition, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The film became the #1 of 1991 despite being rated R. Since 1980, only four other films have achieved this: Beverly Hills Cop, Rain Man, Saving Private Ryan, and American Sniper.
Terminator 2 is by far the most successful film in its franchise. When adjusting for inflation, the second in the series accounts for over 43% of the total franchise gross. This happened despite opening in more than 1,000 fewer theaters than each of the three subsequent series films.
39.4% of Terminator 2’s total gross came from domestic return, making it the second most U.S. dependent of the series. Comparatively, The Terminator received 49% domestically while Terminator Genisys saw 80% of its gross from overseas.
By all counts, Terminator 2 is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most successful film. One of the biggest stars of the 1980s through 2003, when he became the Governator, Schwarzenegger starred in 18 films that grossed at least $100 million worldwide---these films range from 1988 [Twins] to 2015 [Terminator Genisys].
Strangely, Terminator 2 is the ninth slowest film to hit $200 million in domestic gross, taking 122 days [17 weeks]. Of the slower films, only Tangled and Spectre ended up with lower total grosses.