Back in 2009, JJ Abrams' reboot of the Star Trek series opened to an impressive $75 million three-day weekend in the US. Fast-forward to the weekend just gone, and his sequel has a three-day opening weekend of $70.5 million. While it's by no means a huge drop, it is surprising that such a high profile summer blockbuster sequel has managed to pull in less money than its predecessor. So, what happened?
First of all, the good news: Star Trek Into Darkness has the third highest opening weekend of 2013 so far, behind only Iron Man 3 and Oz The Great & Powerful. Also, Into Darkness' international numbers are fantastic, with most foreign box office receipts coming in substantially higher than the 2009 movie. So it's next-to-impossible that Into Darkness will result in a flop, since the $190 million production has already made over $160 million worldwide in less than a week.
Now, the bad news: taking into account the ticket price inflation, and the fact that Into Darkness had both 3D screenings and IMAX screenings - of which the 2009 film had neither - its opening weekend should've been WAY higher. Having built a mostly new fan-base four years ago, as well as maintaining the die-hard Trekkies too, Into Darkness had most of the hard work already done by the time it waltzed into cinemas this weekend. The increased budget, and therefore increased budget for promotion, had Paramount tracking it at in and around the $100 million mark this weekend. So what went wrong?
There are a few factors that could be blamed; first up it's summer blockbuster fatigue. Between Iron Man 3 opening two weeks ago and maintaining the number one spot last week (and coming in second this week with a still mighty healthy $35 million), last weekend's The Great Gatsby and next week's releases of both Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part Three, audiences may well have opted for a weekend off from the cinema, putting Into Darkness on the receiving end of that short straw.
Another issue may have been the fact that much of the publicity centred around Benedict Cumberbatch and his character John Harrison. Cumberbatch doesn't have the same kind of fan-base in the States that he might have here and in the UK, and despite the success of Sherlock, he is still a relative unknown. However, he was placed front and centre of the poster and trailers, something that might've worked wonders for Heath Ledger back in the days of The Dark Knight, but he was a well-known actor playing a well-known character. Nobody knows who John Harrison is, and nobody will until they go see the movie, but that might be asking prospective audiences to meet you more than half way.
So while the difference of $4.5 million might not seem like a big deal to you and me, in Hollywood the box office results are God, and they have been known to create or destroy franchises and careers. It's unlikely that this little speed-bump is going to stop there being a Star Trek 3, and even less unlikely that Abrams will get booted off Star Wars because of it, but it will almost certainly mean that Paramount are going to wait around for him to stop playing in a galaxy far, far away before putting him in the captain's chair of the Enterprise again.
Whatever you do, take our word for it; Into Darkness is worth the watch. Check out our four star review right here and get thee to a cinema!