The Weekend Warrior: Star Trek Into Darkness

So far, this summer has been doing gangbusters with the Iron Man 3 kick-off and then last week, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby doing way better than most people ever expected while breaking Warner Bros.’ ongoing “2nd weekend of May bombs” rut. And this week is going to continue the box office love with the release of the sequel to the 2009 summer blockbuster that redefined Star Trek for a whole new generation and made it cool again. This is only the third weekend of the summer but theaters should be packed once again and that’s even before the release of two more big sequels over Memorial Day weekend.

Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount Pictures)
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller
Directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III, Super 8); Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure
Rated PG-13

There are few names held aloft a highly among science fiction fans as that of Gene Roddenberry’s classic television series of the ’60s, “Star Trek,” which created an insane fandom for a show that literally was only on the air for three or four years. But those were different times and “Trek” was on the air before the very first moon landing so it did strike American’s fancy at just the right time. While it was subsequently revived as an animated series, what really got people’s attention was 1979′s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was a big enough hit that it led to nine more movies of varying qualities over the course of 20 years. By 1987, the show was back on the air in new incarnations such as the popular “Star Trek: Next Generation” but the movies were really what was keeping the “Star Trek” name alive.

The shoe dropped in 2002 when the tenth “Star Trek” movie and the first in four years, Nemesis (starring no less than Tom Hardy), tanked with just a $18.5 million opening and $43.2 million total and many wondered whether Paramount Pictures were going to try to salvage the franchise or just let it die away. Years later, they decided to take a huge risk on J.J. Abrams, a successful TV producer and showrunner who had only directed one movie, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible III. They gave him carte blanche to reboot the franchise with a budget that would seem INSANE to anyone who remembered how poorly the previous “Trek” movies had done.

But what it came down to was finding the right cast of actors to portray the younger versions of the beloved crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise that could work for both generations and getting up ‘n’ comer Chris Pine to play the younger James Tiberius Kirk went a long way as he was joined by “Heroes” villain Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldano as Uhura and a crew made up of some familiar faces like Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho and Anton Yelchin. That casting may have been Abrams smartest move since he knew he’d have to win over the long-time “Trek” fans while at the same time getting new audiences to feel this Enterprise crew is one they can rally behind.

The gamble paid off and the movie opened huge in May 2009 with a $79 million opening weekend–more than six of the “Star Trek” movies made in total–and went on to gross $257 million domestically. Abrams went off to make his passion project Super 8, produced by Steven Spielberg, while producing other television shows like “Revolution” and “Persons of Interest” while the cast waited for them to figure out what to do with a sequel.

Four years is probably a little bit longer than it should have been between the original movie and the sequel, because there’s something to be said about striking while the iron is hot and fans are itching for another movie, but maybe the added time has just helped build excitement similar to the gap between The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded. Wisely, Abrams didn’t have any plans of reinventing the wheel for the sequel with Abrams and the entire cast back, the big addition this time around being British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, best known for his turn on the BBC’s “Sherlock” who is also playing the villain(s) in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” movies.

At first, there was a bit of consternation about the subtitle “Into Darkness” when it was first announced since it was such a different way to go with a movie title, let alone for a “Star Trek” movie but apparently, people have gotten used to it and going by the trailers, it seems appropriately dark.

Paramount has been shifting around when and how to release this movie for months now, originally planning to do IMAX-only shows, but eventually they settled on opening the movie on Thursday. Considering they’ve been selling advance tickets for many weeks, it’s not quite clear how that works.

The original Star Trek opened in the second weekend of May which normally doesn’t see big box office hits–that’s changing thankfully-but this time, J.J. Abrams got the coveted “Star Wars slot” because the weekend before Memorial Day is indeed where all of George Lucas’ hugely successful science fiction movies have been released. That brings up another interseting dynamic in that J.J. Abrams got the gig to direct Star Wars Episode VII just a few months back so now all the “Star Wars” fans (and that’s a much bigger group) will also be keeping an eye on what he’s doing with this franchise to get some sense what to expect of their long-awaited epic.

There’s little question that this is going to be more than just about Trek fans now that Abrams successfully turned the film’s predecessor into an event movie so people will be rushing out to see this just like they did Iron Man 3 a few weeks back. The question is how many will go on Wednesday midnight, how many will go on Thursday and how many will wait to the weekend and see it with kids. “Trek” probably has a surprising number of female fans from the first movie due to hunky Chris Pine, so it’s not just going to be all guys rushing out to see it and it’s definitely a movie that fits into the four quadrant status where age and gender won’t matter so much since everyone will find something to enjoy.

Since this is such a fan-driven type of movie, a lot of the big-time “Trek” fans and those who’ve really been looking forward to seeing it will take off from work and school to catch it early and there should be a good amount of midnight business. Unfortunately, opening early means it probably won’t be joining Iron Man 3 in this year’s $100 million opening club although there should still be enough business to sustain it over the weekend. With two more blockbuster sequels opening over Memorial Day we generally think that Star Trek Into Darkness will end up grossing only a little bit more than the original movie, being far more frontloaded than the previous installment even if it should be among the summer’s Top 10.

Thursday Est.: $30 to 32 million; Weekend Est.: $84 to 87 million; Est. Total Gross: $275 million

This weekend last year didn’t see the release of a big blockbuster the weekend before Memorial Day, which is usually the case, but instead saw the release of three movies that basically tried to get some business away from The Avengers. That wasn’t going to happen as that rested comfortably at the top with $55.6 million as its gross zoomed past $450 million! That meant that Peter Berg’s Michael Bayesque version of the board game Battleship (Universal) starring Taylor Kitsch had to settle for second place with a dismal opening weekend of $25.5 million, although having opened internationally a month earlier, it was able to bring in $200 million towards its budget. Opening two days earlier on Wednesday, Sacha Baron Cohen was back with a new character The Dictator (Paramount) but it didn’t really hit with American audiences, taking third place with $17.4 million, followed in fourth by Johnny Depp’s Dark Shadows, which took a massive plunge. Even though it was based on a hugely popular bestseller, the star-studded What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Lionsgate), only brought in $10.5 million for the weekend for fifth place. The Top 10 brought in $133.9 million and with Star Trek expecting to do big business this weekend, we may actually have one of the first up weekends in some time.

This Week’s Predictions -

1. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) – $84.5 million N/A

2. Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $33 million -55%

3. The Great Gatbsy (Warner Bros.) – $23 million -54%

4. 42 (Warner Bros.) – $3 million -35%

5. Pain & Gain (Paramount) – $2.6 million -48%

6. Peeples (Lionsgate) – $2.5 million -46%

7. The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox) – $2.3 million -35%

8. Oblivion (Universal) – $2.0 million -51%

9. Mud (Roadside Attractions) – $1.6 million -37%

10. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate) – $1.4 million -44%

Unfortunately, I’ve barely seen any of this week’s limited releases for reasons mentioned previously.

Legendary South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk returns with his 18th film Pieta (Drafthouse Films), which won the Golden Lion at the 2012 Venice Film Festival and was up for Korea’s entry to the Oscars. This one involves a loan shark who has been living an isolated existence until a woman shows up claiming to be his long-lost mother and he starts to rethink his life only to learn of a dark secret that might change everything. It opens in NYC, LA, Austin, Chicago and other cities on Friday.

Katie Aselton (“The League,” The Freebie) returns with her second feature as a director, the thriller Black Rock (LD Entertainment), co-starring Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell as three friends who decide to spend a weekend in a remote location where they encounter a group of former military guys and things go horrible wrong. It’s a major step forward in terms of production values for Aselton compared to The Freebie but I have issues with movies that depict violence against women, even when they’re directed by women, and this seems to go too far and yet not far enough. The three actresses do a decent job but the guys aren’t nearly as good.

Julianne Moore stars in Craig Zisk’s The English Teacher (Cinedigm) as a 40-year-old high school English teacher in a small town in Pennsylvania who bonds with her former student Jason, played by Michael Angarano, returning from New York having failed to make it as a playwright. Despite pressures from his father (Greg Kinnear) to give up writing, she decides to stage the play along with the school’s flamboyant drama teacher (Nathan Lane, of course).

Alice Winocour’s Augustine (Music Box Films) is a period drama about the relationship between Dr. Jean Martin Charcot, a 19th Century French neurologist and his teenage patient Augustine who suffers from paralysis, but she’s diagnosed as having “hysteria” as they discover that she has seizures that cause her immense pleasure. Wait a second. Didn’t I see this movie with Maggie Gyllenhaal last year? Do I really need to see a French period drama about the female orgasm? No, probably not. Next.

Aaron Eckhart stars in Philipp Stölzl’s Erased (Radius-TWC) as an ex-CIA agent Ben Logan who discovers his daughter has been targeted for termination, putting him into a cat and mouse game to stop the men hunting her and discover the truth. Frankly, I’m amazed this is getting a theatrical release.

Next week, it’s Memorial Day weekend, historically one of the busiest times at the box office and two big sequels are going head to head as Vin Diesel’s street racers take on the Wolfpack and only one will be victorious. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) follows up the hugely popular and successful Fast 5 bringing back the same crew with Dwayne Johnson, while Todd Phillips’ The Hangover: Part III (Warner Bros.) finally wraps up the series of hit R-rated comedies that started and now ends in Las Vegas. Lastly, the animated fantasy adventure Epic (20th Century Fox) offers the very first new family film into theaters since The Croods, which may finally give families a new option.


You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage in the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas

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