Humor Me Here: Thoughts on the Success, or Lack Thereof, of Star Trek into Darkness
Source of box office info: Box Office Mojo. These people really deserve kudos for doing a painstaking job that certainly must be the equivalent of watching paint dry.
I must say that I’ve been pretty amused by all the browbeating ballyhoo on the ‘disappointing’ box office performance of Star Trek into Darkness, especially when the naysayers compare it with the ‘successful’ performance of J. J. Abrams’ first Star Trek installment.
Star Trek 2009 was a box office success? Really? I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how this is so. The first installment was made on an excessive budget of 150 million dollars, 53 million more than the 97 million profits made from 1982’s The Wrath of Khan. Domestically, Star Trek 2009 made 257,730,019 while it needed an even 300 million just to break even, making it, effectively, a box office failure. With the foreign market coming in at 127,764,536, the movie made 385, 494, 555 worldwide with a paltry profit of a little over 85 million dollars. Normally, box office numbers like this would be quite impressive, but not for a film costing 150 million to make in the first place.
By the way things are looking as of this writing, the second installment to the Star Trek reboot will most likely meet the same fate as its predecessor did domestically; it will be interesting to see if the international market will be there to rescue it from total financial failure.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I’m not, in any way, gloating over the possible failure of Star Trek into Darkness, I’m just dumbfounded by all of the over-analyzing that's been going on. The smaller profits being made by this sequel have nothing to with a crowded summer movie line-up, J. J. Abrams betraying the true message of The Original Series, Trekkies being too narrow a base as an audience, the whole nonsense of ‘is it Khan or not’, or whether Star Trek is truly dead.
Oh, and by the way, years ago, it was not uncommon for sequels, no matter how successful they were financially, to make less money than the original.
Give it a break, people.
The problem is two-fold, and as plain as day.
The problem is a bloated movie budget and an unrealistic expectation on how a film with such a budget can perform in these times.
Let’s face it, we’re in a global economic recession( why no one is calling it a depression is beyond me), and an outing at the movies in the 21st Century isn’t like it was during the hard times of the 1930s. A ticket price for one person is $ 10.00, and that doesn’t include the wide assortment of nutritionally challenged food that’s also sold at inflated prices. It may not be dining at the Four Seasons, but for many people in these times, it’s a deep dig in the pocket.
True, there have been a few exceptions ( like Fast and Furious 6, for example), but if you follow box office updates you’ll see that Hollywood has been losing money on most of their ‘blockbusters’ budget films as of late.
It’s unrealistic enough to expect box office magic at a time when economic hardships run deep and widespread; why then, when Star Trek 2009 only broke even worldwide, would you up the budget of the second installment by 40 million?! That would mean Star Trek into Darkness has the herculean task of reaching 380 million just to get it’s money back!!
As of this writing, Fast and Furious 6, Hangover 3, and Star Trek into Darkness have suffered huge dips at the box office this past weekend. So, at this point, the chances of the Star Trek sequel breaking even looks far less certain, a pretty twisted thing to say for a movie that has just made over 328 million in only 3 weeks.
I’m not a Hollywood insider, nor am I a filmmaker, but it seems to me that there are a few things that should be considered if one wants to see profits from the movies they make.
The first thing is to decide on a cheaper budget. Considering the many expensive box office failures in recent times, this is a given.
The next thing is to look for less expensive alternatives to the more costly special effects, and using creativity in making them look just as impressive for your film.
The last thing, and perhaps the most important element in all this, is to revisit the concept of storytelling for the cinema. Too many movies these days have sacrificed good storytelling for bigger, more dazzling effects.
I’ll give you two examples of what I’m talking about here.
Battleship is a movie that chucked good storytelling out the window in the hope that the special effects would carry it to box office success. It died at the box office.
Chronicle, on the other hand, made strong storytelling a priority over special effects and scored a huge box office win. Sadly, this movie is more the exception in Hollywood while Battleship is more the norm today.
Movie making is no longer about creating a good film as much as it’s about a casino gambling kind of mentality, to see just how much money one can throw on the table and win back in return.
Of course, in the event that Star Trek into Darkness is unable to play catch-up to its predecessor, you’re going to hear all sorts of silliness as to why it did ‘poorly’ at the box office. Most likely, commentators will try to pin the blame on the Star Trek phenomena itself. I’ve already heard and read about ‘Trekkies being too small a base,’ ‘too old a base,’ and that the ‘phenomena is dead and past the point where it can be revived’.
Give me a break.
The two Star Trek reboots have brought out a huge number of people to the box office, both reaching past the 300 million mark. This, Dear Reader, tells me that Star Trek still has a big audience. If this base is a narrow one, then you’re talking about the biggest ‘narrow’ base there is.
The terms ‘narrow base’ and ‘small base’ have been used repeatedly in so many commentaries, it’s become a broken record. It’s also inaccurate.
As for the assertion that Star Trek is ‘dead,’ this is also a freight load of bunk.
Star Trek never died, and it certainly didn’t need a ‘reboot’ in order to make it more appealing to today’s increasingly fickle and distracted youth, who need more explosions and bigger body counts just to keep from getting bored. The ‘reboots’ are simply an excuse for a Hollywood long bankrupt of any originality to take what has worked before for guaranteed box office wins.
Star Trek has had an incredible run that's lasted for almost 50 years—12 movies(including the reboots), five TV series, an animated series, countless books, comics and documentaries. It’s inspired people in the arts and sciences since it’s growth from a failed TV series to a cult with legions of fans. It’s stayed popular with the public when other TV shows, even hugely successful ones, were forgotten( who still talks about Welcome Back, Kotter, after all?).
Star Trek has not died, nor is it on life support. It is simply a grand old cult that has had a stupendous run, and it doesn’t need the likes of a J.J. Abrams or anyone else to ‘rescue’ it. It’s the same kind of mentality that says that every bestselling novel ‘absolutely must’ be made into a film, or a mini-series. If anything, it is finally settling down for a well-deserved rest in the annals of entertainment history. It should be allowed to do so.