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May 16, 2013

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Box Office Prediction – Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

by Master Pillow
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Someone triumphantly remarked the other day that they thought Star Trek Into Darkness would be the first Trek film to hit the magical $1 billion USD worldwide gross to which my only reply was, “HAHAHAHA…..NO.”   Look, after all these years I still love all things Trek yet it is sheer lunacy to think Star Trek Into Darkness will reach this lofty level.  Do I want it to happen?  Sure!  However, there’s just no chance in Hell that it is going to occur.

After my previous two posts looking at the numbers for Star Trek Nemesis and J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot it’s now time to turn to Star Trek Into Darkness.  Let’s be honest here and ask the easy question – will it out gross the 2009 movie?

Unless the movie outright stinks it pretty much seems like a lock.  The 2009 reboot made $257,730,019 domestic with a surprisingly robust $75,204,289 opening weekend.  Many might not remember but a week or two before it premiered tracking pegged the opening in the low $50s which caused many a sleepless night at Paramount Pictures.  In other words, tracking had under-estimated the demand by roughly 40-50% which reflects badly on these tracking services.

This time around the early tracking numbers are showing Star Trek Into Darkness on a trajectory for $85-$95 million which at first glance is good as it represents roughly a 10-15% bump.  However, in my opinion that’s looking pretty anemic considering the 2009 reboot has now had a four year interlude to suck in new fans.  At the same time the original movie is simply loved by many with as astounding (for a Trek film) 95% fresh rating over on rottentomatoes and a solid 8.0 over on IMDB.  In fact if you were to inflate those 2009 numbers into 2013 dollars you’d get a figure that’s roughly equal to what early tracking is predicting.  If it remains flat that’s a bad sign.

If anything the four year gap between the reboot and Star Trek Into Darkness should boost audience anticipation making the 10-15% tracking increase seem puny.  Then again we have to be cautious because just like the 2009 reboot there weren’t many people who really pegged that film’s opening correctly.  There was no way of really gauging if new or old fans would turn out in droves for the film and it was labeled with a giant question mark.

The general rule of thumb for any film that is loved on this scale is to project its sequel much higher.  Movies such as the first Matrix and obviously Batman Begins are good examples to look at when projecting how their sequels will initially perform.

The first Matrix movie pulled in a final domestic gross of $171,479,930 but its opening weekend was merely $27,788,331.  Calculating its “multiplier” results in a marvelous 6.17 showing the amazing word of mouth that propelled the relatively weak opening into a massive hit.

Then there’s The Matrix Reloaded.  It’s final gross was $281,576,461 which seems great until one realizes that its opening weekend was $91,774,413.  That’s a huge drop to only a 3.06 multiplier showing that audiences generally gave a mixed opinion of the film.  Nevertheless, that’s not what we’re interested in.  The point here is that audience anticipation for the sequel drove its opening weekend gross into the stratosphere as everyone clamored to see it.  Obviously, the end result was a less than great film which can be seen in how The Matrix Revolutions faired (hint: badly).

Turning to Batman Begins it made only $205,343,774 domestic gross on a $48,745,440 opening weekend for a multiplier of 4.21.  When Batman Begins opened many people immediately wrote it off proclaiming that the series was wilting with lower opening weekend numbers yet the positive word of mouth kicked in and audiences kept going back.  While the total gross is barely over 200 million the movie achieved what the 2009 Star Trek movie did in rebooting the franchise with a solid outing that not only brought back old fans but new ones as well as they were enamored with Chris Nolan’s take on the Batman universe.

Flash-forward three years and the fruits of Batman Begins can be seen when The Dark Knight premiered and simply blew everything away.  Audience anticipation built on the loved Batman Begins plus the eerie death of Heath Ledger initially brought viewers to the cinemas to the tune of an opening weekend of $157,441,483.  That’s three times the amount of Batman Begins.  It didn’t hurt that the movie was pretty damn good as well which propelled the final gross to $533,345,358.

Looking at both The Matrix and Batman Begins there is no doubt that Star Trek Into Darkness will benefit from the 2009 Star Trek reboot being universally loved.  The question then is just how big of a bump Into Darkness is going to receive.  It all depends if those new fans are true “converts” in thinking that Trek is now “must-see” cinema.  If they’ve been chomping at the bit to see a sequel then Into Darkness will do well.

To be honest if Star Trek Into Darkness only pulls in $85-$95 opening weekend I would not see that as a major win.  I expect Paramount execs are hoping for a breakthrough so that the final gross is far north of $300 million domestic.  If Into Darkness doesn’t hit $300 million it is going to be mildly disappointing for them as it would probably mean the film isn’t playing to audiences as well as the first film and would also provide signs that perhaps the franchise has hit its ceiling in terms of fans.

However, that is only half the story.  The “real” goal here is the International audience.  As mentioned before, Star Trek has been an awful performer in the International market.  The 2009 film at least pulled in $127,950,427 overseas which is basically like establishing an initial beachhead.  While that number is also appalling all signs are showing that Into Darkness is going to be the movie that finally allows Star Trek to “break-out” of its North American-only market.

Realistically, Star Trek Into Darkness could possibly triple that global gross and end up somewhere close to $300 million overseas.  If that happens then a $300 million only domestic gross will not sound as bad as the franchise would finally be a global phenomenon.  Paramount is pouring tons of money into International marketing for this film which is totally unprecedented for a Trek film.  Shuttling J.J. Abrams and most of the primary cast and crew around the world isn’t cheap yet Paramount has done so in key markets in order to build awareness.

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That brings us to the beginning of this blog post and the mythical $1 billion USD total worldwide gross.  Do you see how tough it would be for Into Darkness to achieve it?  The only viable way Into Darkness gets anywhere close to that number would be if it truly broke out everywhere and had a domestic gross far north of $400 million.  Even then it would mean Into Darkness would have to make almost 5-6 times as much overseas as the 2009 Star Trek reboot which is a mighty tall order.  Yeah…that’s not going to happen.

Even the much vaunted Batman Begins and The Dark Knight couldn’t pull that off.  Batman Begins made only $167,366,241 overseas which is kinda close to what the 2009 Star Trek movie pulled in.  Even The Dark Knight sequel which was well received everywhere could only boost overseas grosses to $468,700,000.  That’s still less than three times an overall increase in box office.

If Into Darkness miraculous follows The Dark Knight and achieves three times the 2009 Star Trek film’s International gross that brings its foreign total to roughly $383 million.  In this scenario it would mean the only way Into Darkness hits $1 billion would be if it made $617 million domestic.

LOL.  That’s NOT going to happen.  It would take The Avenger’s type of response to propel Into Darkness over $600 million domestic and I just can’t fathom any possible avenue in which it can achieve that.  So yeah, there’s no way Into Darkness hits $1 billion worldwide.

So after all that what do I think Into Darkness is going to pull?

$110 million opening weekend with a 3X multiplier gets you to $330 million total domestic.  I wish it could go higher but it would really require the movie to be perceived as being just as good or better than the 2009 film.  Although lightning can strike twice I just can’t see Into Darkness pulling another 95% fresh rating on rottentomatoes although it is currently hovering at a still amazing 87%.  Helping Into Darkness is the fact that its 3D surcharge and IMAX screens should theoretically add at least $20-30 million extra in grosses.  Finally, although its second weekend is a real dogfight pitting it against Fast and Furious 6 and Hangover 3 it is also US Memorial Day weekend which is a holiday where families come out in droves which should inflate or at least buffet Into Darkness’ drop.

Hangover 3 is coming off the mostly hated Hangover 2 so I can’t see it hitting those high numbers.  However, Fast and Furious 6 is coming off the mostly loved Fast 5 so it should pull in a huge number of fans that overlap with Trek’s demographic.  At the same time it is all going to depend on families.  If they have a primary choice of taking their kids to a film it automatically eliminates Hangover 3 as it is Rated R meaning Into Darkness and the still playing Iron Man 3 should benefit from this phenomenon.

Overseas it’s going to pull in just above double the 2009 Star Trek film’s total gross and end up around $270 million.  Put the two together and Paramount should be jumping for joy with a final worldwide gross around $600 million.  It might not sound as grand as The Avengers or Batman but it would finally propel Trek into the big leagues and set up the third film for a better run at $1 billion.  The long and short of it is, Trek needs to go global and the only way it can expand its audience is to convince everyone other than Canadians and Americans to go see it.

Finally, as this will be my final Into Darkness post before my review let me just say one thing – I have a feeling this is going to be a divisive film in terms of the “old” fanbase and that once again there are those who are going to complain about a ton of plot points until the end of time.  If you are someone who hated the fact Vulcan blew up in the 2009 reboot and can’t “forgive” the new team for radically changing something so near and dear I have a strong suspicion Into Darkness is going to have the same effect.  For other older fans and obviously new fans to the franchise that have never seen anything other than Abrams’ 2009 film I have a feeling the movie will play well enough to propel it over $300 million.

Let’s see how audiences respond this time around.  Oh yeah – just remember that the movie officially opens on May 16 not May 17 as Paramount has moved it up one day which in theory could potentially dilute the traditional opening three day gross but we’ll see…

© 2013 The Galactic Pillow

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