Sunday, July 27, 2008

Star Trek: the $150 million reboot for a series that has never crossed $110 million!

Although originally slated to open in December of 2008, Star Trek (The Motion Picture, but really just a prequel to Star Trek, but we can't give it its own subtitle lest people think it's a direct sequel to the terrible Star Trek: Nemesis) come out on May 8th, 2009 instead (ie - the Speed Racer/Poseidon slot of doom). Had it come out when it was intended, 2008 would have been even more a rerun of summer 1989 (Indiana Jones, Batman, James Bond, Star Trek - all that's missing is Ghostbusters and Lethal Weapon).

I have no idea if it'll be any good, but I have to question the logic. Paramount is spending $150 million on a series that has never topped $109 million and has averaged $75 million. Does anyone else think it's hilarious that Paramount is basically spending so much that it'll have to triple the highest-grossing Star Trek movie in order to just break even? Even if it grosses as much as JJ Abraham's previous picture, the slightly overrated Mission: Impossible III, it'll still struggle to stay in the black. That also cost $150 million, but topped out at $135 million and $398 million internationally, a solid hit but well below expectations and cost (although I assume Cruise won't be taking his zillion-percent of the gross cut on this one).

And, that's probably best case scenario. More likely we're looking at Cloverfield numbers, a boffo $40 million opening followed by a quick exodus of all non-geeks and non-fans to the final tune of $90 million. And remember, Star Trek doesn't do diddly overseas. At the end of the day, Star Trek is still Star Trek and the fan base is limited. To put this in perspective, the 1996 $30 million opening weekend of Star Trek: First Contact (the biggest opening in the series) was still $6 million less than the opening weekend for Star Wars: Special Edition, the 20th anniversary rerelease just three months later.

I always say that you should never spend more on a sequel than the original made domestically (comparitively, Live Free Or Die Hard cost $110 million, about $10 million less than part II grossed back in 1990). I guess I should make a new rule: never spend $150 million+ on a sequel/prequel to a series where the highest grossing, by far, of ten films was $109 million. Nothing would make me laugh harder if the film makes the same $90 million that Star Trek: First Contact made in 1996. It's one thing to take a risk and spend $150 million on an unproven property that you hope can break out (Lord Of The Rings, Transformers, The Golden Compass). It's quite another to spend $150 million on a series that you know doesn't have the track record to deliver on that investment. I like the franchise and I can't imagine the movie will be any worse than Nemesis, The Search For Spock, or The Final Frontier, but that doesn't mean Paramount should have spent Star Wars money on Star Trek.

Scott Mendelson

Note - the picture at the top was created by Slash Film.

2 comments:

RL Shaffer said...

While I agree with you, I think Paramount has a bigger perspective on things. Now that I work in the rental industry, I can tell you that people RENT Star Trek. That film series is one of the most popular "old" titles in the store ahead of both Star Wars and Indiana Jones and just behind the Batman films, at least right now.

It seems Paramount is expecting a fair $90-120 million haul in the US and a modest 30-50 million overseas, which would allow it to break even in theaters. They grew weary of their winter release because the film was faltering and needed vast reshoots and they were afraid of another box office beast taking them down. Rightfully so, The Day the Earth Stood Still would likely do just that (despite probably being a steaming pile of shit).

When the film comes to video, fans will buy it. And if it's a solid film, renters will rent, then buy (yes, people still do this--you'd be SHOCKED). If nothing else, they’ll rent, like crazy. This is a film series that will do the same gross on video, if not a little more, than it will do in theaters, bringing it’s final tally to roughly $200-280 million. If it's good, even if it doesn't do great in theaters, it'll still be considered a hit for relaunching the franchise. It’ll be the sequel that will do more bank in theaters, just like The Dark Knight.

Now, with all that said--I think Abrams Trek is about as good an idea as Bryan Singer's Superman Returns or, better yet, New Coke. You can't take a brand like this and only marginally reinvent it. Personally, I'm seeing a flop out of this one.

If you want to reinvent a franchise, don't go back to the heavily techy, nerdy original series. Give it a darker edge, make it more real, breathe new life into it--make it more like, for lack of a better example, Batman Begins. Not contextually, but thematically. Here, it seems like Abrams just took the characters and pretended they were iconic like Batman and decided “Hey, I’ll just tell their origin stories.” But he failed to realize that the world of Trek is legendary, not iconic. The characters are not built with pathos like Batman. There aren’t any secret hidden meanings long untold. These characters should be left alone. Move on. Give us something new—something fun, real, scary—something Earth shattering and perhaps add just a tiny dash of blockbuster mainstream ideology to garner some new fans.

Another bad move for Abrams—Romulans are the villains. Uhh, if you want to avoid Star Trek: Nemesis comparisons, maybe try using a different villain than the ones they used.

Still, I'm still looking forward to seeing the film because I like what Abrams has done on Lost (a solid season of Lost could also attract new sci-fi fans), but honestly, I'm not convinced anyone else is as excited.

RL Shaffer said...

While I agree with you, I think Paramount has a bigger perspective on things. Now that I work in the rental industry, I can tell you that people RENT Star Trek. That film series is one of the most popular "old" titles in the store ahead of both Star Wars and Indiana Jones and just behind the Batman films, at least right now.

It seems Paramount is expecting a fair $90-120 million haul in the US and a modest 30-50 million overseas, which would allow it to break even in theaters. They grew weary of their winter release because the film was faltering and needed vast reshoots and they were afraid of another box office beast taking them down. Rightfully so, The Day the Earth Stood Still would likely do just that (despite probably being a steaming pile of shit).

When the film comes to video, fans will buy it. And if it's a solid film, renters will rent, then buy (yes, people still do this--you'd be SHOCKED). If nothing else, they’ll rent, like crazy. This is a film series that will do the same gross on video, if not a little more, than it will do in theaters, bringing it’s final tally to roughly $200-280 million. If it's good, even if it doesn't do great in theaters, it'll still be considered a hit for relaunching the franchise. It’ll be the sequel that will do more bank in theaters, just like The Dark Knight.

Now, with all that said--I think Abrams Trek is about as good an idea as Bryan Singer's Superman Returns or, better yet, New Coke. You can't take a brand like this and only marginally reinvent it. Personally, I'm seeing a flop out of this one.

If you want to reinvent a franchise, don't go back to the heavily techy, nerdy original series. Give it a darker edge, make it more real, breathe new life into it--make it more like, for lack of a better example, Batman Begins. Not contextually, but thematically. Here, it seems like Abrams just took the characters and pretended they were iconic like Batman and decided “Hey, I’ll just tell their origin stories.” But he failed to realize that the world of Trek is legendary, not iconic. The characters are not built with pathos like Batman. There aren’t any secret hidden meanings long untold. These characters should be left alone. Move on. Give us something new—something fun, real, scary—something Earth shattering and perhaps add just a tiny dash of blockbuster mainstream ideology to garner some new fans.

Another bad move for Abrams—Romulans are the villains. Uhh, if you want to avoid Star Trek: Nemesis comparisons, maybe try using a different villain than the ones they used.

Still, I'm still looking forward to seeing the film because I like what Abrams has done on Lost (a solid season of Lost could also attract new sci-fi fans), but honestly, I'm not convinced anyone else is as excited.

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