Prior to July 4th, we observed that Paramount/Skydance’s Star Trek Beyond was bound to post an opening between $50M-$60M, and that’s what we’re seeing this weekend with the threequel’s 3-day currently estimated at $59.6M.
That’s a solid result, and the third best bow out of the Skydance/Bad Robot Star Trek series, however, the Justin Lin-directed film is 15% off the three-day of its second installment, Star Trek Into Darkness which clocked $70.9M during the course of its Friday to Sunday.
That’s not a steep drop for a sequel’s three-day, especially in a summer where such films like Alice Through the Looking Glass and Neighbors: Sorority Rising are respectively off 77% and 56% in their openings from their previous chapters.
But still we can’t ignore the fact that Star Trek Beyond’s opening is down close to $15M from its 2013 3-day outing (its five-day haul was $83.7M). Into Darkness’ FSS was $9M off the 2009 reboot’s debut ($79.2M). Even though we don’t need to ring the ER alarm and declare that the franchise is in jeopardy, it’s still worth analyzing why this threequel has eased.
Already Paramount has given a vote of confidence in the Star Trek franchise and greenlighted a fourth sequel with the entire reboot cast and a script by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. However, no word whether Lin is returning yet.
In the Star Trek cinematic canon, it’s par for the course to have its openings jump up and down. Just when it looked like Star Trek movies (with the original 1966 cast) might be out of touch with audiences in the mid 1980s, particularly with a revamped TV series Star Trek The Next Generation hitting the airwaves, along came 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home with its then- present-day earth backdrop and humpback whale environmental themes. The pic breathed new life into the franchise, and turned around the best gross for a Star Trek sequel ever at the time with $109.7M at the domestic box office. Voyage Home held that record for 23 years until it was unseated by J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot which earned the series all-time high of $257.7M. But you know when a Star Trek sequel is definitely in trouble when it posts a disastrous final cume, i.e. 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier ($52.2M) and 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis ($43.3M).
At a production cost of $185M, which is a tad lower than the $190M spent on Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond will be fine in the end, particularly since the Skydance/Bad Robot series has spiked the franchise’s appeal overseas, moving its international B.O. from $128M to $238.6M. In addition, Paramount received $75 million in TV, digital, and social media promotional support from U.S. brand partners: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VIZIO, Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, Bing, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Eastern Airlines provided a 737 Star Trek Beyond branded plane to jet the cast to the world premiere in San Diego.
So, why did Star Trek Beyond, loaded with an A- CinemaScore (versus the first two titles’ As) and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 85%, slow down?
Despite bringing the gifted Fast & Furious director Justin Lin on board, some rivals believe that Star Trek Beyond looked same old-same old in its promos and trailers, while others think that Paramount didn’t get the great word of mouth out until late, topped off by an emotional world premiere at San Diego Comic-Con, which honored the memories of late actors Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.
Paramount did try to distinguish Star Trek Beyond from its previous two chapters when they dropped the teaser back in December 2015. “We got no ship,” exclaims Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk in the trailer. The Enterprise gets destroyed, and the crew is scattered.
But for Star Trek fans, haven’t we seen this all before? Arguably the Enterprise gets decimated at least two times in the Star Trek cinematic canon.
And with other studios tubthumping their mega franchises a year or more in advance (take your pick: Warner Bros. with Suicide Squad at last year’s Comic-Con, and Batman v. Superman at the last two Comic-Cons), Paramount, when compared to its competition, was late in stoking the fans about Star Trek Beyond. If a studio is going to expand the fanbase of a franchise, it’s never too early to get the word out. Paramount skipped Comic-Con last year with any type of major tubthumping for Star Trek Beyond. Four weeks ago, Paramount went after the female demo by attaching Rihanna to the film with her pop song “Sledgehammer” (a marketing stunt that drew 1.2 billion impressions across Twitter).
What also didn’t help Paramount in the distribution/exhibition community was when they opted out of showing any footage from Star Trek Beyond at Cinema-Con. That move prompted some gossip among rival distribution chiefs, who suspected that something was wrong with the film and buzzed about the pic’s production delay.
Paramount claims it had a plan: In May, the studio threw a fan event on the Melrose lot, and showed off a new trailer and exclusive footage. Even though that was two months out, shouldn’t they have hosted the event six months sooner during the 50th anniversary year of the franchise? Disney just threw its Star Wars Celebration in London with a big spotlight on its prequel Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and that doesn’t come out until December.
Another quandary was whether director Justin Lin’s Fast and Furious fans came out for this Star Trek on Friday night. “Instead of calling it Star Trek Beyond, they should have added Fast and Furious to the title,” snarked one major studio distribution chief. However, the statistical evidence showed that a decent portion of moviegoers did in fact come out because they’re Lin fans. Ten percent of all CinemaScore audiences cited Lin as the reason why they came out for Star Trek Beyond and gave the film an A. That’s not far from the number of people who cited J.J. Abrams as the main reason why they bought tickets to Star Trek Into Darkness (11%). Furthermore, Lin’s 10% CinemaScore beats his appeal score earned on Fast Five (5%), and Furious 7 (7%) and it’s just under Fast and Furious 6 (11%). ComScore PostTrak crowds at 12% cited Lin as the reason why they bought tickets, while 51% said they attended Star Trek Beyond because it’s part of a franchise they love. Overall PostTrak score for Star Trek Beyond is a healthy 83% total positive with a very good word of mouth recommendation of 67%.