20 Years Ago: Terminator 2: Judgment Day Exploded Into Theaters
He came back. On July 3, 1991, Terminator 2: Judgment Day arrived in theaters as naked as Arnold Schwarzenegger after time travel and came away with the then-biggest five-day opening in box office history. The James Cameron-directed film earned $54 million over its first five days of release, $3 million more than Tim Burton's Batman grabbed in its first five days back in 1989. Said an anonymous theater owner to the New York Times at the time, "At virtually all our locations, we were selling out well in advance of showings, and the word-of-mouth buzz out there is just phenomenal." Indeed it was: Terminator 2 went on to gross $204.8 million domestically, and over $500 million worldwide. All of which is to say: Happy anniversary to a cultural touchstone!
With its massive set pieces and groundbreaking special effects, Judgment Day looks more like the blockbusters of today than anything that was in theaters twenty years ago. (To wit, the next four films at the box office during the opening weekend of T2: Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, City Slickers, Problem Child 2.) Cameron spent anywhere from $85 to $102 on the Terminator sequel, which was another then-record -- one Cameron and the franchise would top in later years with Titanic and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, respectively -- and the cost was worth it: in addition to the tremendous box office, T2 won four Oscars, including one for Best Visual Effects.
I can remember seeing Terminator 2: Judgment Day in a packed Manhasset, NY theater during opening weekend -- the same theater I had previously seen Naked Gun 2 1/2, for what it's worth -- and the film was an action revelation. Linda Hamilton's guns! Edward Furlong! Arnold! Robert Patrick's terrifying T-1000! "I need a vacation"! It was all there, and all great. T2 was like The Godfather Part II of summer entertainment; the sequel that improved on the excellent original in ways previously thought impossible.
In honor of T2 -- and to celebrate Fourth of July -- remember Judgment Day below. Hasta la vista, baby.