According to the original plan, the new Star Trek movie was set to open in just a week, but earlier this year Paramount decided to move the film to May 2009 to take advantage of the more lucrative, and more competitive, Summer movie season. Today TrekMovie examines some of the heavy competition, including taking a look at some new previews. [Spoilers]
Past Trek summers
Summer is the season for big movies and so it is a big vote of confidence on the part of Paramount to give “Star Trek” the tent pole treatment. In recent years Trek films have been ‘medium sized,’ coming out in the Thanksgiving to Christmas season. However Trek was a bigger film franchise in the eighties and three of the four films from that decade (II, III, & V) were summer releases (with mixed results). "Star Trek II" had the top opening weekend of 1982 and went on to be the 6th highest grossing film of the year, while "Star Trek III" ended up ranked 9th for 1984. However “Star Trek V” was a disappointment, ranking as the 25th highest grosser for 1989 after getting crushed by films like “Batman,” and the third “Indiana Jones” movie (along with its own bad reviews).
Of course, the real key to success is being a good film and so even with strong competition a film can do well. "Star Trek II" opened in the same month as "Poltergeist" and "E.T." and ended up between the two in the top 10. But it is always good to keep an eye on what else is out there.
May 2009 – Genre fest
The month of May 2009 will see the release of several high-profile movies, including other Sci-Fi films or genre films and also a lot of ‘counter programming’ of family films and comedies each weekend.
|May 2009 – films in wide release|
|May 1||"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
(Fox – action / adventure)
|"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"
(New Line- fantasy comedy)
(Paramount – sci-fi adventure)
|"My Life in Ruins"
(Fox Searchlight – comedy)
(Universal – comedy)
|"Next Day Air"
(Summit – comedy)
|"Angels & Demons"
(Sony/Columbia – thriller)
(Universal – comedy)
|May 22||"Terminator Salvation"
(Warner Bros. – sci-fi action)
|"Night at the Museum II: Escape from the Smithsonian"
(Fox – family adventure)
(Disney/Pixar – animation)
|"Drag Me to Hell"
(Universal – horror)
Box office battle of the weekends
Today film’s earnings are judged on a combination of box office receipts and home sales (DVD, TV rights, etc), but box office still dominates. It cannot be over-estimated how important the opening weekend is for big summer movies, especially when positioned close to strong competition. For example, "X-Men 3," the highest grossing film in the X-Men franchise, made $102.8 million in its opening domestic weekend, which was 44% of its total $234 million domestic take. However, follow-up weekends can also be critical. "Batman Begins" opened at $48.7 million, but that was only 24% of its total domestic take of $205 million. It is rare for summer films to win two weekends in a row, but follow up sales over the weeks following release make or break a film, making both word of mouth as well as the competition, of key importance.
Although there are quite a few movies in May, the main competition for the genre audience will primarily come from the other franchise films: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", and "Terminator Salvation". Trek will also have to do well against the Tom Hanks "DaVinci Code" follow up on May 15th." So lets take a closer at those three films.
May 1: X-Men Origins: Wolverine [Budget: n/a]
This fourth film in the franchise, directed by Gavin Hood ("Rendition") from a script by David Benioff ("Kite Runner"), leads up to the events of the first "X-Men" movie. "X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE" tells the story of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed, and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe whose appearances in the film series have long been anticipated.
Prior Films in the Franchise
- "X-Men" (2000) – $296.3 million worldwide
[Budget: $75 million]
- "X2: X-Men United" (2003) – $407.6 million worldwide
[Budget: $110 million]
- "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006) – $459.3 million worldwide
[Budget: $210 million]
- Total: $1.16 billion
In The News
- Liev Schreiber (Sabertooth) Talks Wolverine
- Deadpool and Gambit Spin-Off’s?
- Jackman Would Like Sequel to Be Based in Japan
- Jackman Talks Wolverine
- TotalFilm Chats with Jackman About Wolverine
With the exception of the surprise Comic-Con screening, 20th Century Fox has been relatively silent in their promotion of ‘Wolverine’. That has changed in recent weeks, with the studio finally releasing some material, mostly images, and then finally debuting the first trailer attached to "The Day the Earth Stood Still" last Friday (and reluctantly putting the trailer online this week). Except for Jackman, this film is from a new and less tested team and so it may not perform as well as the previous films in the series. Jackman (Wolverine) will be hosting "The 81st Annual Academy Awards" in February so he could get a boost from that and there is a new animated series scheduled to premiere next summer, titled "Wolverine and the X-Men" which could help. However, although the last two X-Men films have done well, both had big drop-offs in their second weekends, which would be good news for "Star Trek."
May 8: Star Trek [Budget: $135-150 million]
This one you know, Paramount’s big releaunch of the Trek film franchise with an origin of The Original Series era with a bit of time travel thrown in. Directed by JJ Abrams from a script from the "Transformers" team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman the film features a cast of young semi-stars, led by Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, joined by some more familiar faces such as Winona Ryder (Amanda), Bruce Greenwood (Pike) and of course Leonard Nimoy (elder Spock).
Prior Films in the Franchise
- "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979) – $139 million worldwide
[Budget: $35 million]
- "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982) – $96.8 million worldwide
[Budget: $11.2-12 million]
- "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984) – $87 million worldwide
[Budget: $18 million]
- "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986) – $133 million worldwide
[Budget: $24 million]
- "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" (1989) – $70.2 million worldwide
[Budget: $30 million]
- "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991) – $96.9 million worldwide
[Budget: $27 million]
- "Star Trek: Generations" (1994) – $120 million worldwide
[Budget: $35-38 million]
- "Star Trek: First Contact" (1996) – $150 million worldwide
[Budget: $46 million]
- "Star Trek: Insurrection" (1998) – $117.8 million worldwide
[Budget: $58-70 million]
- "Star Trek: Nemesis" (2002) – $67.3 million worldwide
[Budget: $60 million]
- Total: $1.08 Billion
Here is the trailer, if you forgot:
In our last competition update in September, TrekMovie noted that the secrecy behind the "Star Trek" was running the risk of cutting into the promotion of the film, but with all the promotional activity in October and November, the buzz on Trek is already outpacing "Wolverine" and the film should fare well in its opening weekend. One extra bonus in Trek’s favor is that it looks to be the only May film to get the IMAX treatment, so it will have no competition on those screens, giving it a bit of a boost. A key factor is foreign markets. This is the first Trek film to get a truly global premiere. Past Trek films have been hit and miss overseas, but for this film to be a success it will have to do better than any Trek film has ever done, including non-English speaking markets. JJ Abrams already started to address this with his recent tour of Europe and more international efforts are expected from Paramount.
May 15: Angels & Demons [Budget: n/a]
The team behind the global phenomenon "The Da Vinci Code" returns for the highly anticipated "Angels & Demons," based upon the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard religious expert Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance their goals. Ron Howard again directs the film, which is produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and John Calley. The screenplay is by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman.
The film follows Langdon who discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati – the most powerful underground organization in history – he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization’s most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb, he jets to Rome, where he joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and enigmatic Italian scientist. Embarking on a nonstop, action-packed hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and even to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra will follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican’s only hope for survival.
Prior Films in the Franchise
- "The Da Vinci Code" (2006) – $758.2 million worldwide
[Budget: $125 million]
In the News
"Angels & Demons", Sony’s prequel follow-up to 2006’s highly successful ‘Da Vinci Code’ could cause trouble for "Star Trek" because it comes out just a week after. "The Da Vinci Code" opened to an impressive $77.1 million and "Angels & Demons" is adapted from another of Dan Brown’s novels, and as such, carries with it another strong and devoted fan base. Yet another reason why the first week’s gross is so important–the audience may move on to another film. However, "Angels & Demons" is more of a thriller and should be targeting an older audience than Trek. One area where "Angels & Demons" is a bigger threat is the global markets. "The DaVinci Code" made over 70% of its money outside the US and Canada and this film should be a strong performer as well, especially Europe.
May 22: Terminator Salvation [Budget: $185-200 million]
In the highly anticipated new installment of "The Terminator" film franchise, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale (aka Batman) stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind. The film is directed by McG ("Charlie’s Angels") from a script by Paul Haggis ("Quantum of Solace") and Shawn Ryan (creator of the edgy FX cop show "The Shield").
Prior Films in the Franchise
- "The Terminator" (1984) – $78.4 million worldwide
[Budget: $6.4 million]
- "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991) – $519.8 million worldwide
[Budget: $102 million]
- "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003) – $433.4 million worldwide
[Budget: $200 million]
- Total: $1.03 billion
In The News
- McG Talks Terminator Salvation Secrets
- James Cameron Comments on Terminator Salvation
- McG Talks Terminator Salvation
- McG Updates Terminator Salvation
- Arnold (Voice) Cameo?
- More Hints from McG
Set Visit Reports
While buzz has only now begun for ‘Wolverine’, the same cannot be said for "Terminator Salvation". Warner Bros. has been much more effective at getting the word out for the upcoming film. Director McG has been out in the press frequently giving interviews, there have been various set visits and overall reports from the film have been very positive. While we always knew that Halcyon planned for "Terminator Salvation" to be the first of three new films, the production company surprised many last week when they announced that they had already begun development with McG on the sequel. The decision was made due to the positive studio, fan and media reaction to recently released footage. In most cases, having the franchise on TV and film would seem to be a good thing, but the problem with the film’s TV sibling "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is that the series is experiencing poor ratings, and may not be around by the time "Terminator Salvation" hits the big screen next summer. Regardless this film will can cut into ‘the legs’ of "Star Trek" going into its third weekend and beyond, especially in foreign markets where past Terminator films have performed well.
What’s the Buzz?
There are various ways to measure the buzz, we’re going to take a quick glance at two different measures. First up, IMDb’s MOVIEmeter Top 25 Films of 2008 measures "search behavior of over 57 million users of IMDb.com." Only two films that we’re interested in are in that top 25 list; "Star Trek" at #22 and "Terminator Salvation" at #17. That corresponds nicely with the assumption that these two sci-fi action films will be going after very similar audiences. What’s also encouraging is that only 7 of 25 films on the list are from 2009 or beyond, indicating that buzz is building for "Star Trek".
Now let’s take a glance at Google Trends (showing both search volume as well as news story volume) focusing on ‘Wolverine’, "Star Trek" and ‘Terminator’ over the last 30 days–click for details:
With the exception of a strong spike around November when the second trailer was released, buzz has been relatively stable and "Star Trek" has maintained equal or stronger buzz than its two main rivals. You’ll notice the spikes at the end of the graph for both ‘Terminator’ and ‘Wolverine’. Those correspond to the movie trailers released for both films. They look strong, but when you take a glance at a graph charting the entire year, they pale in comparison to the spike "Star Trek" received in November when the first full-length trailer was released–click for details:
That implies that the trailer didn’t only reach hard-core Trek fans, but a wider general audience. There’s also been a heavier presence in promotional material for Trek. None of the aforementioned films have tie-in campaigns in place, while "Star Trek" already has a presence at Intel’s website, a planned comic book release and a toy campaign.
Firstly, although this article is about competition, there do not always have to be winners and losers. Quite often multiple films with close release dates end up successful (for example "Transformers" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" opened within a week of each other and both ended up in the top five in 2007). That being said, assuming Paramount continues to give the new "Star Trek" movie the big promotional treatment and assuming it has good word of mouth, the next Trek is well positioned to be one of the top film’s of 2009. Trek should be certain to win its opening weekend, especially with the pattern of past X-Men film drop-offs. The key to success will be to see how it splits the box office "Angels and Demons" in the second week and how deeply "Terminator Salvation" cuts into the legs of Trek for its third weekend and going into June. Right now it looks like Trek’s biggest challenge will be overseas markets, especially going into its second and third weekends when it goes up against franchises that have had more success overseas.
All in all May 2009 looks like a great month for movie and genre fans, and "Star Trek" can be at the top of that list.