The next Star Trek film is due in 2016, but fans want to know exactly when. Could it be on the 50th anniversary? And what about competing with JJ Abrams’ Star Wars movie which was just put on production hold – might Star Wars slip into 2016 and go head-to-head with Trek? TrekMovie has invited Hollywood writer/producer (and release date bingo aficionado) Kay Reindl to take a look at the 2016 landscape. Read the full analysis.
50 Years A Trek?
The speculation about who is going to direct the next Star Trek movie has ended. It’s Roberto Orci, and hopefully he has already put on his fan-retardant flame suit. He did come back to Twitter, so he must have some kind of protection. And according to Paramount, his Star Trek will be released in 2016, but when in 2016 will it come out?
Some fans would love it if the movie was released in September, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the franchise. But seeing as how the highest grossing movie released in September is Crocodile Dundee, which came out in 1986, it seems highly unlikely that Paramount would sacrifice box office just for the sake of nostalgia. The overwhelming majority of people who saw the two JJ Abrams Trek films have no idea when exactly Star Trek premiered on TV, and the only goal for the studio is getting those people back into the theater. Paramount are still likely to use the 50th anniversary as a marketing hook regardless of the date they choose because it adds a uniqueness to the film.
Star Trek’s first episode “The Man Trap” aired Sept. 8, 1966 – does the next Trek film need to be released in September to be part of the 50th anniversary?
Disney 2016 Jedi Mind Trick?
The injury to Harrison Ford on the Star Wars set has added a potential new wrinkle to 2016, as JJ Abrams was rumored to have asked Disney to push the release of the film from December 2015 to May 2016. Every Star Wars movie has been released in May but since the last one came out in 2005, the summer movie landscape has changed. Chief among these changes is that Disney now owns Star Wars and Marvel. And they have already reserved May 2016 for Captain America 3. Couldn’t Disney just push the Captain America movie and give Abrams the time he needs to revive Star Wars? Well, no. Because in July, Disney will be releasing an as yet untitled Marvel film. There may even be another Marvel film coming out later in 2016. Star Wars is a property, while Marvel is a studio. So the influence on Disney is going to be greater from Marvel.
Paramount would likely want to avoid having Star Trek and Star Wars released close to each other, so a Star Wars in May 2016 release could be a big factor in their calculations. However, it looks like Paramount won’t have to worry about that. Just today, Disney announced that they are indeed halting production on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to accommodate Ford’s recuperation, but the film is still “on track” to wrap in the fall and be released in December 2015.
Harrison Ford’s injury is slowing the Star Wars production – but not the release date
Box Office Bingo
Studios have always reserved release dates for their big tentpole films. But since Marvel arrived on the scene, release date bingo has heated up. Because Marvel has planned out movies through 2028, the other studios have to set release dates for their untitled films, too. That’s what DC has done with Man of Steel, which is the launchpad for their other properties. In 2017, for example, DC is planning to release three films. So movie schedules are already taking shape years in advance, way before there’s even an idea for what the movie will actually be. It’s like the gold rush with capes.
Given all of that, where does Star Trek go in 2016? First of all, let’s take a look at the top box office average per film per month (based on top 10 domestic opening weekends for each month…
As you can see in the above chart, May, July and November are the biggest months for movies. Most of the Marvel films have released in those months. The fallow months are and have been (for quite awhile) January, February, August and September. Since the studios don’t make many smaller films anymore, those months are dumping grounds. You’re not going to isolate your blockbuster in a month when people have gotten out of the habit of going to the movies.
The Treks of Summer
Prior to the JJ Abrams movies there were three Star Trek films released in June (which used to be a bigger movie-going month), three in November (which used to feature midlevel films the studios don’t make anymore) and four in December. The three June films are Wrath of Khan (’82), The Search for Spock (’84) and The Final Frontier (’89). The lackluster box office for that last film may have changed Paramount’s mind about summer releases for Star Trek, as the next five films in the franchise were all released in the fall or winter. The last Next Generation film to be released was Nemesis in December of 2002, where it grossed a paltry $43 million and almost put an end to the movie franchise (it certainly ended the TNG-era and put the Trek films into a hiatus).
When they brought the franchise back, Paramount initially stuck with the pattern and set the release for the first JJ Abrams Star Trek film on Christmas 2008, but later they moved it up to May 2009 in hopes of bigger box office. After that worked out, Into Darkness was also released in May, although that one was initially set for 4th of July weekend in 2012. However, delays on Abrams’ Super 8 made that date undoable. Bad Robot and Paramount could have got Into Darkness ready for a Holiday 2012 release, but instead they chose May 2013, indicating that the studio has deemed the summer as the best fit for the renewed Trek franchise.
So, let’s take a look at how the Summer of 2016 is shaping up
|Summer 2016 Wkd||Films [Sci-fi/Action/Comic Book Bolded]|
|May 6th||Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (WB)
Captain America 3 (Disney)
|May 13th||Universal R-Rated Comedy (Uni.)|
|X-Men: Apocalypse (Fox)
Alice in Wonderland 2 (Disney)
|June 3rd||Sausage Party (Sony)|
|June 10th||The Amazing Spider-man 3 (Sony)|
|June 17th||Finding Dory (Disney)
How to Train Your Dragon 3 (Fox))
(4th of July wkd)
|Independence Day 2 (Fox)
Angry Birds (Sony)
The BFG (Disney)
|July 8th||Marvel Untitled (Disney)|
|July 15th||Untitled Bourne (Uni.)
Ice Age 5 (Fox)
|July 22nd||King Arthur (WB)|
|July 29th||Untitled Planet of the Apes (Fox)|
Yeah, that’s a lot. But there’s no guarantee that all of those movies will stay where they are, either. By the end, like every summer, there will be at least one tentpole film for each weekend. Both Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness had to compete against big movies opening in May 2009 and 2013. Yet the 2009 film ended up ranked 7th for the year and even though Into Darkness had to contend with the megahit Iron Man 3, it still made close to what the first film made domestically and outgrossed it by 20% globally. So from Paramount’s perspective, May has worked well for both Star Trek and Into Darkness. I’m sure there are some who will argue that point, but the absolute fact is that a studio does not greenlight a sequel if the previous film didn’t do well enough to warrant it.
Summer 2016 kicks off with “Batman v. Superman” on May 6th – will the next Trek follow it soon after?
Beam May Up
Looking at what Paramount has to release in 2016, it is likely that they are looking for summer slots for the Star Trek movie and Transformers 5. It is a good bet that the Transformers film will end up in June – quite possibly in the open slot of June 24th. And with three superhero movies in May, the next Star Trek begins to look like counter-programming. Where Paramount has an advantage is that they aren’t Disney, juggling Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney Animation. They don’t have to lock in a release like Disney or DC do. They can set the Trek film in May and change it if they need to, whether it be for production reasons or for positioning. Frankly, I’d be surprised if they didn’t do just that.
And it’s not just about how crowded the movie palaces will be with superhero films. The theory is that if you can get people to the theater, they will see your movie if The Avengers is sold out. According to the studio logic, a rising tide lifts all films. A big movie gets people in the habit of going to the movies. And if this hadn’t been proven, then they wouldn’t do it. The bottom line is not aesthetics, or creativity, or craft, although the notion that studios don’t care about quality isn’t true. They do, but they have to make money. That’s the bottom line for a corporation, and it always will be. They have a thousand Nate Silvers running numbers that lead them to these decisions.
So in the end, my bet is the next Star Trek film will be released on May 20th, 2016. With shooting set to start in the spring of 2015 (according to Bob Orci), making that release date is very doable. And for those fans that want to see the film celebrate the actual 50th anniversary of Star Trek in September 2016, there is always the DVD/Blu-ray release.
For now we will have to wait and see, but Paramount shouldn’t wait too long to make their choice.
Start lining up now for May 20th, 2016?
What’s your best guess at a release date. Discuss it in the comments below and vote in the new poll.
Kay Reindl is a TV writer/producer who’s written for Millennium, Twisted and Beware the Batman. A long-time Trekkie, she has not technically defended Star Trek Into Darkness to the death, but will if pushed. Follow her on Twitter: @KayReindl.