Star Trek Into Darkness: A Box Office Space Oddity
By John Hamann
May 19, 2013
Paramount deferred criticism heading into the true weekend, saying that it was going to take off, that warp speed would get it to the $100 million for the four day opening. To do so, Star Trek would need to at least match what the 2009 reboot did on its first Friday, and pull in about $27 million. The chances of that happening were slim, as the original opened on a Friday with Thursday previews. As BOP reported yesterday, Star Trek Into Darkness had a first Friday of $22 million, an 18% decline compared to the original. It was at this point that we knew that over Friday-to-Sunday, Star Trek Into Darkness was not going to match the reboot’s gross of $79.2 million. Whether opening on Thursday or not, in my mind, this is not good enough. The marketing, pedigree, reviews – everything – is too good for this result.
Paramount then needed to rely on the remainder of the weekend – it needed kids to abandon Iron Man 3 and move to the darker, more adult, Star Trek Into Darkness. The original hadn’t seen that trend – with the Thursday previews removed, the multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) for the original reboot was 2.9, a standard, non-family multiplier for a May release. The sequel would need a multiplier well over 3.0 to gain some momentum back. Into Darkness earned a Friday-to-Sunday gross of $70.5 million. With the Thursday and Wednesday amounts added back, Star Trek Into Darkness had a four-day opening of $84.1 million. That’s “just a little outside” of the $100 million that tracking, and more often Paramount, was predicting.
It’s always hard to communicate that numbers like this are poor, and they aren’t, the key is that Paramount (again) left money on the table due to some bad decisions. They broke the first rule of overestimating box office, making Star Trek Into Darkness an even bigger failure than if they had just clammed up. They can’t even blame the tracking firm now. Paramount, if you need some help, you can always call BOP.
Paramount’s first bad decision was choosing the opening frame. As I said above, there has only been pain over the pre-Memorial Day Weekend for the last five years, ever since Shrek the Third earned $121.6 million over three days in 2007. Since then, the pre-long weekend of May has been a bust. The other mistake the studio made was changing the release date to Thursday. Paramount caused confusion by moving the day back a day only a few weeks ago (according to them it was because IMAX screenings were selling out). Tinkering with release dates for major studio releases is never, ever advised, as it creates doubt. Paramount needed to protect this sequel as much as possible, as the distributor sold off the rights to the Marvel movies (whoops!), and now only has World War Z coming over the rest of the summer. Star Trek Into Darkness needed to drive the franchise forward, and this opening fails to do that.