Star Trek Lands JJ Abrams On Vanity Fair List of Hollywood’s Top Moneymakers

JJ Abrams may or may not have been ‘snubbed’ by the Academy for his work on the 2009 Star Trek movie, but one thing is for sure, the man was paid. According to a new report in Vanity Fair, the producer/director is now on Hollywood’s Top 10 list of moneymakers for his ‘back end’ profits from Star Trek.      


Show JJ the Star Trek money

The 2009 Star Trek movie grossed $385 million in box office, plus a big chunk more in DVD, home sales and merchandising. It was a big success for Paramount who had the goal of bringing back a franchise that used to be one of their more important assets, but hadn’t been paying off in recent years. The job of Trek’s revival was given to JJ Abrams, and the payoff has landed him on Vanity Fair’s new Hollywood 40 list, ranked at #9.  According to the report (which just covers earnings from feature films and not TV), Abrams earned a total of $36 million in 2009 from Paramount, $31 million of which was "back end" payoffs from his share of the Star Trek take. And that would not count money he was paid in advance to produce and direct the film.

Abrams with his bosses Viacom majority shareholder Sumner Redstone and Paramount CEO Brad Grey at the April 2009 "Star Trek" premiere in Hollywood

Of course big payouts are nothing new to Star Trek. Abrams predecessor Rick Berman has earned many many millions of dollars for his years as a producer on various Star Trek TV series and movies, as had Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry before him. And of course the big stars of Trek, especially William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Stewart have taken home big Trek paydays.

JJ Abrams isn’t the only Trek-connected mogul on the new Vanity Fair list. Tyler Perry, who had a small part in the 2009 Star Trek film, is ranked 11th on the list with estimated earning of $32.5 million. Also in the top 10 are a couple of avowed Trekkies, Tom Hanks and Ben Stiller. The biggest earner of the year is producer/director Michael Bay, who raked in the cash for Transformers 2, written by Star Trek’s Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Here is a summary of the top 10 on the Vanity Fair Hollywood 40

Rank Mogul (biggest 2009 payout) Est. 2009 Film Earnings ($ mil)
1 Michael Bay (producer/director Transformers 2) $125
2 Steven Spielberg (Universal theme parks) $85
3 Roland Emmerich (producer/director 2012) $70
4 James Cameron (producer/director Avatar) $50
5 Todd Phillips (producer/director The Hangover) $44
6 Daniel Radcliffe (starring fee for Harry Potter 7 & 8) $41
7 Ben Stiller (starring fee for Little Fockers) $40
8 Tom Hanks (back end Angels & Demons) $36
9 J.J. Abrams (producer/director Star Trek) $36
10 Jerry Bruckheimer (producer Sorcerer’s Apprentice) $35.5

Go to Vanity Fair for the full list and more details.


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It must be nice to be Spielberg. Dont do anything but still make $85 million from licensing fees.

wow…all i can say is wow…

must be nice to be bringing in that kind of dough

Congrats, JJ. Finally, an accolade that cuts to the heart of the matter.

Excuse me while I try to act shocked.

I guess that’s what it’s all about.

so its due to the movie not the ‘power’ he has

well nice of all of us to help make jj filthy rich, while some of us cant even find work–hah hah say jj do ya need an assistant or a yes man middle management suck up person?

Can see JJ laughing as he rolls around all his cash.

But Michael Bay as top earner, this has got to be a farce.

this list just shows me how overpaid a lot of people are in Hollywood.

budgets are only high on films because of the fat paycheques that the talent gets. No wonder he had to use a bloody brewery for an engine room.

#8: “But Michael Bay as top earner, this has got to be a farce.”

Just a simple matter of inverse proportions ;)

cameron *only* made $50m?! that seems like chump change when u consider Avatars success

i assume the bulk of his Avatar $ will be attributed to 2010 …

damn i almost felt bad for a guy making 50m ..jeeze

sometimes I wonder if they get too much money if quality goes out the window, does there come a point when they say it doesn’t matter who well crafted it is as long as it makes me a s**t load of dough?

seriously its cool to know but this just shows to me how overpaid the talent is these days

@11. philpot: I’m sure James Cameron will get more than 50mil of those 2 billion (or whatever ridiculous amount it is now) Avatar has hurled in. Wait for the 2010 list.

@9. captain_neill: As I understand it those 36 million weren’t part of the budget. 31 million of those were paid after the fact because Star Trek made so much money at the BO.
I guess 5 million to bring back a dying franchise isn’t too much in Hollywood terms. Of course, most of us will never even come close to that kind of money.


I was being funny by the way, a joke about running out of budget to do a proper engine room.

I know its from the revenue but I was making a comment about how the talent can be overpaid which eats heavily into the budget.

good to know that Gene and Rick Berman where high earners as well.

And everything is earned with a vision about a future without money!!!
For us, Star Trek is our philosophy, but for some people…

Congratulations capitalism and americans !

I am curious as to what the Roddenberry estate made, if any off of Star Trek. I know Gene Roddenberry’s first wife (not Majel) supposedly earns a % of anything with the name Star Trek, which is why the producers originally named the last tv series just ‘Enterprise.’ Even though Gene R sold the rights to Star Trek, I am sure he worked out something to ensure he earned something in perpetuity for his involvement post TOS series. Since his son is the sole survivor, he must be the beneficiary of any estate earnings.

Keep making good ST movies JJ im glad to pay to see them!!!

Whether you agree with it or not, these salaries are all relative in terms of the impact their work has on the general population. If you branch out from these moviemakers to EVERYTHING that spins off their films, it’s staggering. What’s the Trek brand worth, 2 billion and counting?

Same can be said for the salaries of professional athletes. They seem ludicrous but are only a very small sliver of the total pie.

Ask yourself: how many people are impacted, directly or indirectly, by the work you do? What’s that worth in wages? Yes, teachers and medical professionals and firefighters and police and military etc. are the ones that really matter. But the sports and entertainment industries have become huge businesses in our North American culture. As long as we place high value on that, those involved will be compensated accordingly.