Four days before the release of Star Trek Beyond, Paramount Pictures, Skydance, and Bad Robot announced that “Star Trek 4″would be made with Chris Hemsworth reprising his role as George Kirk. However, J.J. Abrams’s comments on July 20th at the red carpet premiere of Beyond in San Diego cast doubt on the status of the film.
Abrams told Entertainment Weekly that “[the story for the fourth feature] is his favorite Star Trek story that we’ve had.” Abrams added, “So one of the reasons I’m hoping [Star Trek Beyond] does well is so that we can, without question, get that movie made.” The producer continued, “It really is an amazing story. It’s really the reason we made the deal with Chris Hemsworth as soon as we could because we really want the story to be told, fingers crossed.”
Series regulars appear to be in the dark on a fourth film, especially the man named in the press release. When asked what to expect from the next film, lead Chris Pine said “I have no idea. I have no idea. J.J. hasn’t really told me anything. But I’m looking forward to it. I love Chris. I think he’s fantastically talented. We had a great time on the first one…it’ll be a blast.”
What We Know So Far
What remains crucial and largely unknown is the exact monetary figure Paramount, Skydance, and Bad Robot consider a success at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, Star Trek Into Darkness cost $190 million to make and returned over $467 million at the box office, with over half its total being made in overseas markets. Paramount expected Into Darkness to bring in a $100 million opening weekend, according to Moviefone.
As of the writing of this article, Star Trek Beyond brought in $59.2 million during its opening weekend domestically, along with an estimated $30 million international haul as it opened in 37 overseas markets. Beyond’s domestic opening weekend haul was on the high-end of what analysts were predicting it would make, as they estimated a $50-60 million opening weekend before release. As is becoming increasingly common with films, the international market is vitally important. As stated earlier, much of Into Darkness’s success was due to it bringing in $238.6 million internationally. Beyond, while having already opened in 37 countries, still has not opened in France, South Korea, China, Mexico, and Japan. Paramount’s staggered release schedule sees it opening in those countries mainly throughout August, but Brazil will not get it until September 1st, China and Mexico on September 2nd, and Japan on October 21st.
With a budget of $185 million, one has to wonder exactly what figure Beyond will have to bring in for Paramount to consider it a success. Paramount, Skydance, and Bad Robot sought to reduce the cost of the third film by moving production to film industry-friendly locations such as Vancouver and Dubai, yet the budget still swelled far beyond the $150 million needed to make the most successful film in the Star Trek franchise, 2009’s Star Trek.
A lower box office haul need not be a deterrent to making another sequel. Box office revenue from films featuring the original cast oscillated greatly between features, with the actors being told each time to expect the film to be the series’ last. The Next Generation’s features did much of the same. Paramount continued to make more, however, until 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis bombed at the box office.
While Star Trek Beyond is unlikely to top the charts of the Kelvin Timeline series of films, it will likely become the third-highest grossing Trek film, and is unlikely to be viewed as the failure Nemesis was. However, shrinking box office returns could portend a smaller budget for a fourth outing.
As we reported last year, stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have options in their contract for a fourth film that would also see them receive hefty raises. Both would certainly be onboard for a Star Trek 4. However, new deals would have to be negotiated with Karl Urban, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg. Another complicating factor is Saldana’s commitment to the Avatar series, with filmmaker James Cameron planning to film four sequels in the coming years. Judging by Abrams’s comments, some sort of deal has been worked out with Chris Hemsworth to star in a fourth film if it is made.
With the hefty raises being given to Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto for Beyond, The Hollywood Reporter noted that the rest of the cast received modest raises and performance bonuses for Beyond after representatives for the actors nearly took Paramount to court over their pay not rising since the 2009 film. It is believed that it cost Paramount between $10-15 million in salaries for Beyond, with $6 million going to Pine and an unspecified amount being paid to Quinto.
Given the raises given to Pine and Quinto, it may not be surprising that we could see protracted contract negotiations this time. While Pine and Quinto have not risen to the status of leading men in Hollywood, Saldana’s performance in Guardians of the Galaxy and the her starring role in the upcoming Avatar sequels could see her seeking more.
Hemsworth, however, has skyrocketed in Hollywood after his appearance in Star Trek and it is unknown what salary he is expected to receive for a fourth film, but it is likely to be a hefty one. According to CinemaBlend, Hemsworth was paid $5.4 million for Avengers: Age of Ultron, but is likely to make much more as he stars in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.
Greenlighting Sequels Before a Film is Released
It has become common practice in Hollywood to greenlight a sequel even before the first film is released. Some of these decisions are made based on a number of factors, such as favorable pre-release reviews, predicted box office haul, and the desire to create a franchise. However, there are times when a sequel is announced before a first film is released to drum up hype for that first film. In many occasions, the sequel never ends up being made. Greenlighting sequels to Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, The Hunger Games, and 50 Shades of Grey are logical as they either went over well with audiences, scored big at the box office, or both.
However, occasionally studios announce sequels before the first film’s release that never get made. Examples of this are The November Man, Battlefield Earth II, The Green Lantern 2, a follow-up to Superman Returns, The Golden Compass, Fantastic Four (2015) 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, and a sequel to Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin.
We at TrekMovie are confident, and hopeful, based on our enjoyment of Star Trek Beyond, that a fourth entry in the Kelvin Franchise will be made. We are under no illusion that Beyond will surpass its predecessors at the box office, as it is currently tracking to be the third-most successful Trek film. However, we will likely see a smaller budget, and possibly a different story, due to Beyond’s performance.
Above all, we find it incredibly bizarre that Abrams, whilst on a press tour to promote Beyond, would state that his favorite Trek movie is yet to come. As he will not be directing any of the remaining Star Wars sequels or standalone stories, it is possible that Abrams may return to direct as he is not scheduled to direct any other project in 2017.
Speaking for myself, a fan who tremendously enjoyed Beyond, I am concerned that Simon Pegg and Doug Jung will not be writing Star Trek 4. Their great work with the latest installment surely warrants them having a go at a second film. As Leonard McCoy said, “if you’re gonna ride in the Kentucky Derby, you don’t leave your prize stallion in the stable.” Based on Beyond, it is clear that Pegg and Jung are the prize stallions of the new Trek film franchise, putting together a wonderful film in a short period of time.