Much of the movie news of late has been about the box office success of Suicide Squad. But what of Star Trek Beyond, the recent entry in the ongoing reboot series of Star Trek? The word is not so good. As of Sunday, Box Office Mojo lists its box office total as $127,901,364 – still not quite near the projected budget of $185 million. That doesn’t even begin to take additional marketing costs into account. Despite good reviews, the film appears to be a long way from being fully profitable.
Star Trek Beyond began on mixed ground, opening as the number one movie in America, but with less than $60 million total at the end of that weekend. Scott Mendelson, a film industry analyst at Forbes, explains that due to an unusually weak summer for box office results, “a 59 million dollar weekend is just ‘okay'” for an opening weekend. That’s been the pattern this summer, where ‘big’ isn’t big enough due to expectations or budgets.” Star Trek Beyond, he said, is “going to require a big overseas boost just to justify that already-announced fourth movie.”
He notes the July opening weekend results are under the adjusted-for-inflation results of Star Trek: First Contact (one of the more successful Star Trek films), but actually come close to the box office results of Star Trek: Generations (a film noted for only middling box office by Star Trek standards).
“The franchise is now basically where it was in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s.”
After three weekends in theaters, the studios “need to come to a place where a $150m domestic/$300m worldwide total for a Star Trek movie is considered a win.” Only the executives themselves can tell if that will be true.
So, there’s one thing we probably know about the next Star Trek film, if it happens: it will be a lower budgeted movie.
In an article titled, “A Cheaper ‘Star Trek‘ Franchise Can Live Longer And Be More Prosperous,” Mendelson lays out his theory and proposition to create a more sustainable future for the series.
“Here’s the weird conundrum that exists in the current Star Trek cinematic universe: The films cost so much that they are barely profitable even when they do make quite a bit of money. Yet, the massive action scenes and set pieces that demand said budgets are basically everyone’s least favorite part of any given Star Trek film. When people rave about a Star Trek movie, they are usually talking about the winning cast, the emotional payoffs, and/or the would-be social topicality. In short, nobody ever went to a Star Trek movie primarily for the action scenes.
“…there must be a happy medium between a $50 million cheapie and a $185m extravaganza… Having one or two fewer action scenes, sequences that generally earn the ire of critics/fans and (I would argue) the comparative indifference of general audiences anyway, and/or somewhat toning down the scale of the existing action scenes, could potentially reduce the budget. Thus, the next Star Trek film wouldn’t have to clear $400 million worldwide just to hopefully break even or make a small profit.”
This would not be the first time Star Trek had to scale back or re-think strategy in order to achieve future success. The 1979 film debut of the series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was financially successful, but had been very expensive for the studio and was poorly reviewed by most critics. The following movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, drastically cut back the budget, and became one of the most critically acclaimed of all the Star Trek films.
What little we know of the plot of the potential fourth film involves the reintroduction of George Kirk, played by Thor star Chris Hemsworth. He was believed killed in the first of the reboot series, 2009’s Star Trek. Captain James T. Kirk, played by Chris Pine, will somehow meet George Kirk, his father. While this implies there will be some form of time-travel involved, it also suggests a character study. The moral and emotional implications of meeting and being able to interact with a dead parent are significant, and moreover, they do not necessarily require a large budget to display properly on screen. Perhaps the creative teams behind the current Star Trek movie series can achieve their new film on a smaller budget, and achieve success just like Wrath of Khan did in the past.
[Photo via Paramount Pictures]