Star Trek Into Darkness: A Box Office Space Oddity
By John Hamann
May 19, 2013
Despite having a top three that includes a dynamite Star Trek sequel, the third Iron Man, and the second frame of a Baz Luhrmann flick, the box office is suffering this weekend.
Paramount chose the wrong weekend to release Star Trek Into Darkness. This is the same weekend that Battleship ($25.5 million opening, $209 million budget) and The Dictator ($17.4 million opening, $65 million budget) tripped over last year. It is also the same weekend that the $250 million Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides became the weak sister of the series, opening to $90 million while the other sequels opened to $114 and $135 million. It is the same weekend that Shrek Forever After was soft at $70.8 million, while the other Shrek sequels opened to $108 and $121 million (Macgruber, the SNL spinoff, also opened to $4 million that weekend).
If you had this data, and the successfully rebooted Star Trek franchise was yours, would you release Star Trek Into Darkness this weekend? I certainly wouldn’t, and those who did should be fired for not being able to read a spreadsheet. The rebooted Star Trek is one of the best films of the last five years – I really believe that – and could have easily opened the sequel above $100 million. The name Paramount is starting to be synonymous with leaving large amounts of money on the table.
That’s not to say the Star Trek sequel did poorly. Let’s look at the numbers. Into Darkness got started on Wednesday night for previews, and it was initially reported that it grossed $3.3 million form those showings, most of them IMAX. From precisely that moment, I believe there was a collective whiplash from box office observers, as that number was well below expectations. The key figure to this is that The Great Gatsby – a drama based on a novel - took in the same amount a week earlier from its previews. Star Trek has a fanbase to the extreme, The Great Gatsby had a handful of Baz Luhrmann followers. Apples and oranges doesn’t cut it. The news got worse, as Paramount revised that number down to only $2 million. I thought Paramount blew it by changing the release date in early May, moving the opening day back to Thursday, and that advanced tickets were sold for Thursday night, and not Wednesday night. I thought – oh so incorrectly – that we would see a bigger-than-expected number on Thursday. Nope.
The Thursday gross was reported at $13.5 million, but that includes the Wednesday previews, which means Star Trek Into Darkness had a true opening day of a little over $11.5 million, or about $3 million more than A Good Day to Die Hard, which also opened on a Thursday. How hard can I hammer the "not good enough" button? The Thursday number, with the Wednesday gross removed, was the 11th biggest Thursday opening of all time, which sounds like a booby prize to me, as G.I. Joe: Retaliation had a $10.5 million first Thursday.