Thursday, 23 May 2013

I Have Emerged From the Darkness...Can Kirk and Co. Follow?

(Attention: Very minor spoilers to follow; no major plot points, but locations, themes and chronology from Star Trek Into Darkness may be explored, you have been warned.) In his second post for Some Kind of Star Trek, +Joe Hardacre handles the review and box office fallout...

Well, well, That’s all I can say really, my summary of what was a fantastic cinema experience. I finally managed to break my constraints and travelled up to my local VUE cinema to catch the latest JJ Abrams-fueled Star Trek outing, and incredibly I wasn't left disappointed, which was a nice surprise.

Loyal readers will recall that, during my first contribution to Some Kind of Star Trek, I offered a preview of Star Trek Into Darkness and my expectations of the film. Although at the time I anticipated that JJ would be able to deliver a top notch outing, as the days crept closer my optimism waned, and as I sat chatting with friends, regaling one another with tales from Star Trek 2009, and our expectation of Star Trek Into Darkness, I prepared myself for disappointment. Not necessarily in anticipation of a poorly made film, or even a sub-par story, but rather the burgeoning enjoyment Star Trek (2009) delivered, inflated somewhat by the ill-effects nostalgia can have on an individual. 

Regardless, my fears were unfounded for the most part, and Star Trek Into Darkness delivered the ass-kicking, lens-flaring, star ship destroying blockbuster that we had all hoped for. Once again, our charismatic lead duo displayed the on-screen chemistry the likes of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor would have been proud of, and Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrison encapsulated the dark and mysterious template villain prototype fantastically well, before exploding with a hundred different emotions in a glorious crescendo. Ultimately, it was yet another satisfying journey into the Star Trek universe, through the eyes of a director whose star is positively space-bound. 

However, my opinions aside, this piece is concerned not with my opinions of Star Trek Into Darkness, but rather, the rest of the worlds. Welcome to the first, and hopefully not the last, of my box office round-ups. Whilst Star Trek Into Darkness has been available in ol' Blighty and other areas of the world for over a week, the land of liberty across the pond had to wait an extra week (much like yours truly) in order to catch the Enterprise’s latest outing on the big screen; so, how has it fared?

Unfortunately, despite months of mystery surrounding the movie’s villain, and a massive marketing push highlighting catastrophe, jeopardy and impossibly high stakes, early reports from the US of A have been underwhelming. Now, don’t mistake underwhelming for disastrous, but this wasn’t the start Paramount was hoping for. Shifting from a Friday 17th release, to a Thursday 16th release just over a week before release, Paramount were hoping to take advantage of a relatively quiet release window and cash in over a 4-day weekend release, which mirrors the release of Star Trek (2009). Back in 2009, Star Trek managed to gross $86.7 million over its four day release window, which blew away every other Star Trek film released prior, in fact, if we don’t adjust ticket prices for inflation over the years, Star Trek (2009) grossed more in one day than any other Star Trek film did in its entire opening weekend.

Star Trek Into Darkness finished its US release window with a total gross of $84.1 million, which includes midnight showings on Thursday, and then full day reports from Friday through Sunday. As can be seen, the numbers are practically identical. It’s a surprise for sure, considering the US box office has seen massive sequel success over the past few years with the Batman franchise, the Iron Man films, Harry Potter's, as well as pseudo sequels the Avengers and The Hobbit, not to mention four years of ticket inflation. Throw 3D into the mix and the extra revenue it usually generates, and the final tally for Star Trek Into Darkness generates a resounding 'meh'. 

Really then, the question to ask is: what went wrong? (As well as, should we be worried about the future of the franchise?) To the second question, the answer is a resounding no. There really is little reason to panic; the Star Trek reboot was a great success domestically, and, perhaps importantly, it was a critical success as well, something the Star Trek films haven’t been able to boast since Star Trek First Contact (a fantastic 92% on Rotten Tomatoes way back in 1996. Star Trek (2009) for comparison holds a 95% rating, and Star Trek Into Darkness stands at 87%; by no means a disappointment). Rotten Tomatoes is a UK based website, so one could argue those results are skewed, however, even if we throw the oft-maligned Metacritic into the equation, which generally collates a broader selection of reviewers, the three films stand at 71 for Star Trek First Contact, 83 for Star Trek (2009) and 73 for Star Trek Into Darkness, which is good for second all time in the Star Trek franchise. Perhaps more importantly, Star Trek Into Darkness is receiving an average of an 'A' grade according to Cinemascore, which collates audience responses. Critically then, whilst not quite the unanimous success we saw with Star Trek (2009)Star Trek Into Darkness stands out as a success in its own right in this field. (For the more numbers-inclined of you out there, the following you can view some more figures over at this wikipedia page).

If critical response isn't to blame for the surprising box office performance then, what is? There are a number of theories thrown around to try and account for this; notes that the audiences skewed significantly higher towards males (64% compared to 60% for Star Trek (2009)), and those over the age of 25 (73% as opposed to only 65%). Small percentage differences for sure, but they certainly could account for a below par outing; furthermore, if one takes a glance at the releases in May so far, we may have another explanation. Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby have already been released this month, and both films deliver a significant amount of eye candy, with Iron Man furthermore providing high-octane action, to the point where audiences may feel as though their thirst has been sated. As shows, with The Fast and the Furious 6 on the horizon along with The Hangover Part IIIStar Trek Into Darkness will need to maintain that 'A' Cinemascore grade and hope word of mouth pulls it through a crowded release slate if it is to match Star Trek (2009)'s $257 million domestic tally, though at this point that looks like a long shot. 

Internationally, the picture isn’t nearly as bleak, although any enthusiasm generated should be held in check considering the fact that Star Trek (2009)'s international gross of $128 million was considered pretty woeful at the time. Star Trek Into Darkness has already expanded into a number of major foreign markets, including the UK, Australia and Germany. The performances there have been positive, in fact, the sequel has already grossed over $80 million worldwide in two weekends, so it’s guaranteed to pass Star Trek (2009)'s total, although where it ends up is anybody’s guess at this point; report that the only major expansion this weekend for Star Trek Into Darkness was Russia (where it has already grossed twice as much in one weekend as Star Trek (2009) did in its entire run there!), and at this point has only hit half of its potential markets, with China ($9 million for Star Trek (2009)), South Korea ($6 million), Japan ($5 million), France ($7 million) still to come. Whilst those numbers don’t scream huge success, it’s important to remember the worldwide box office continues to grow at a staggering rate, especially China; Iron Man 3, for example, has grossed nearly $110 million there alone, which is by far and away the greatest success a western movie has had in the Democratic Republic.

With recent worldwide trends, as well as the overall critical success Star Trek Into Darkness is seeing around the globe, a total north of $300 million worldwide, alongside a $200 million finish in America, seems well within reach. This would leave Star Trek Into Darkness with a combined gross somewhere north of $500 million, which would represent a successful outing, though not quite the blockbuster we were all expecting – for comparisons sake, Iron Man 3 is already north of $1 billion worldwide, and $500 million wouldn't even come close to matching Fast and the Furious 6 predecessor, Fast Five’s worldwide total of $626 million, truly phenomenal for the fifth film in the franchise. 

What does this mean for the future of the franchise? We’ve had four long, long years between JJ Abrams’ first and second Star Trek outings, and with the director now attached to Star Wars Episode VII, we could potentially be waiting longer if Paramount wish to wait around for double-J. Reasonably, with Episode VII coming in between, it could be 2018 before a three-quel hits the cinemas, and I for one don’t believe Paramount would rest of their laurels and allow that much time to pass before we see another outing. With that in mind, irrelevant of the critical or commercial figures Star Trek Into Darkness manages to finish with, I personally believe this is the last we've seen of the Star Trek universe through the eyes of JJ Abrams. 

Does this mean the end of Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock? uncertain. Ultimately, I believe the two films thus far have done a fantastic job of delivering a believable crew, despite the massive boots they've had to fill. If Paramount does stick with The Original Series crew for another film, I would be shocked if the majority of the cast didn't reprise their roles. 

That’s all for now; I’ll be looking to revisit the box office performance of Star Trek Into Darkness over the next few weeks and months, with the hope of delivering one final round up when Star Trek Into Darkness finally bows out of theatres, though I can’t imagine that’ll be happening anytime soon considering Star Trek (2009) remained in US theatres for 21 weeks! 

All facts and figures in relation to release and box office grosses courtesy of – please visit for all the latest movie release news and grosses – updated daily for America and weekly for worldwide reporting. All figures referred to correct at time of publication date.

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