Fans of Star Trek are gearing up for Star Trek Beyond, which is arriving in theaters just in time for the franchise's 50th anniversary. Paramount has some high hopes for the film's potential quality, having the world premiere at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 and recently announcing a marathon featuring the three films of the Kelvin Timeline. In addition, they're already planning on making a Star Trek 4, with series stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reportedly already on board for another adventure through the Final Frontier.
As is the case with just about ever tentpole that opens, there's a lot of pressure on Beyond to be a sizable commercial hit when it opens later this month. Its predecessors have done fairly well at the box office; the 2009 Star Trek made $257.7 million domestically for its run, and Star Trek Into Darkness grossed $228.7 million in the States. Readers may notice that there was a slight decrease between those two films, and unfortunately for Paramount, it looks like that downward trend will continue with Beyond.
The first box office projections for director Justin Lin's sequel are in, and according to Deadline, it's looking at an opening weekend in the $48 - 60 million range. That would be a noticeable decrease from how the first two Kelvin Timeline movies debuted ($75.2 million and $70.1 million, respectively), which is probably not what the studio was hoping for. Even if it ends up on the higher end of those estimates, Beyond would fall into the "good, not great" category in terms of box office performance.
In this day and age, viewers are used to geek-friendly projects such as this open in excess of $100 million (and in rare cases, $200 million). It's become so typical, any figures in the double digits could be read as a disappointment. Still, Star Trek Beyond shouldn't be interpreted as a commercial bomb (yet). It's all but guaranteed to post the third-highest opening in the franchise's long history at the very least, and there's always a chance the expectations change as the release gets closer. If the SDCC premiere is a smash and strong word-of-mouth starts buzzing around social media channels, that will certainly help boost the film's box office prospects.
It's worth keeping in mind that not all big budget properties are created equal. Star Trek has never been as popular as Star Wars, and in the boom of superhero movies, few things in Hollywood can top something like The Avengers. This is more a statement on Trek's current position in the pop culture zeitgeist than anything else. Beyond is still projected to perform in line with other mid-July blockbusters like Ant-Man ($57.2 million) and The Wolverine ($53 million), so it clearly isn't a disaster. It would have been surprising if the movie was on pace to challenge July records, but this is par for the course for the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Nevertheless, these numbers will probably cause some uneasiness amongst the studio executives, who were no doubt hoping for a huge splash to ring in Star Trek's big 5-0. Just a few years ago, the James Bond film franchise celebrated that very milestone with Skyfall's $1 billion - a club Star Trek Beyond has very little chance of entering. With the marketing campaign just about complete, there isn't much else Paramount can do to increase buzz and awareness. At this point, their only hope is that reaction to the final product is positive, which will encourage moviegoers to check Beyond out. Hopefully, Star Trek can live long and prosper on in theaters.
Star Trek Beyond hits U.S. theaters July 22, 2016.