While there has been a lot of news about the next Trek TV show (Star Trek: Discovery coming to CBS All Access this fall), news on Paramount’s plans for the next feature film is much more scarce. However, there was a mention about the future of the Trek film franchise by the CEO of Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, at an investor event this week.
Viacom CEO: Star Trek Part Of Future Tentpole Strategy For Paramount
On Wednesday, Viacom CEO Robert M. Bakish spoke at a Deutsche Bank investors event, the same event CBS CEO Les Moonves spoke at earlier in the week. Bakish was promoted to Viacom CEO after a shakeup inside the corporation in 2016, and spent much of his time outlining his planned changes to Viacom’s strategy going forward. Of interest to Star Trek fans is discussions of the future of Paramount Pictures.
Bakish told the investors that Paramount was “committed to releasing 15 pictures a year” in the near future. However, he noted that they are moving away from Paramount just being a “silo” within Viacom to a more “integrated strategy,” with the studio working to release films tied to assets and talent from Viacom’s various TV networks like MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET, and others. They are also rebranding Spike TV as the Paramount Network as part of this effort to “leverage TV brands for film and vice versa.”
More specifically, the new plan is to dedicate about half the Paramount production slate to films tied to Viacom TV properties, but that still leaves half the slate for other projects. Regarding those, he said:
The other half of the slate will be full stream Paramount projects. Because we have reduced the volume we can be a little more selective. They obviously will include significant tentpoles, whether that is Transformers or Mission [Impossible] or Star Trek or other newer franchises. But we feel fundamentally that will be an advantaged strategy for our company and can produce superior returns.
While just a passing mention, it is significant that the new CEO of Viacom–who moved into that position after Star Trek Beyond had already underperformed–is still talking about the Trek franchise in the same vein as Paramount’s other big two franchises. Between 2006 and 2016, Paramount released three films from each of those franchises, more than any of their other major properties. And for each year during that period with one or more of those franchise releases they have been the top grossing films for the studio, and that includes 2016’s Star Trek Beyond.
Since 2013, Paramount has released one film from each of those franchises every summer: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), and Star Trek Beyond (2016). Transformers: The Last Knight is set to be released this summer with the sixth Mission film slotted for the summer of 2018 and the seventh Transformers set for summer 2019.
Last summer Paramount announced they will develop a fourth Star Trek film with JJ Abrams as the producer, but as of this time the studio has yet to officially greenlight (meaning approved budget and script) or set a date. As noted before, a big decision on the direction and budget for it likely couldn’t happen until a new CEO comes on board.
New Paramount CEO Soon – Trek Advocate Now Running Film Business
As discussed here on TrekMovie last week, Viacom is searching for a new CEO after Brad Grey was shown the door, having delivered a very underwhelming 2016. Bakish told investors the search is “well along” and there should be an announcement in the “very near future.” In the short term, Bakish assured investors the studio is in good hands with a trio of executives in control, including President of the Motion Picture Group Marc Evans, who Bakish noted “runs the film business.” This name may not be well known, but Evans has played a key role in Star Trek and been an advocate for the franchise inside the studio.
Around a decade ago, when Evans was the head of production for Paramount, he pushed to bring the franchise back after it went dormant following the box office failure of Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002. Not only did Evans lobby to start making Star Trek films again, he also convinced then-CEO Brad Grey to devote more resources to Trek than had been seen in decades. It was Evans who first reached out to producer/director JJ Abrams and writer/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who all eventually worked together to reboot the franchise with 2009’s Star Trek.
Paramount May Have Money Problems and Saldana May Soon Become Even Busier
But before Paramount starts spending any more money, they have some financial issues to deal with. As previously reported, following 2016’s bad year the studio felt they needed to bring in some major outside financing to fund the current production slate, which they found with two Chinese film and media companies. However just yesterday The Hollywood Reporter cited sources in the studio saying that Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media haven’t yet provided Paramount with the previously announced billion-dollar funding, are said to “have questions” about the studio’s new direction, and are seeking a meeting with Bakish to discuss the future of the studio.
And then there is the area of logistics. Again as noted last week, Zoe Saldana will be returning to Pandora for director James Cameron by late summer. Yesterday Cameron confirmed with the Toronto Star that his plan was to produce multiple films back to back, noting “We’re making Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5. It’s an epic undertaking,” and adding that that it will be his main focus for the next eight years. This will likely tie up a lot of Saldana’s time during that period and be a factor in any new Trek film that wants to include her in a major role. That being said, the productions for the 2009 Star Trek film and the first Avatar had some overlap and Cameron and Abrams were able to come to an accommodation for the actress to shoot both.
As always, stay glued to TrekMovie.com for all news, whispers and more about the future or Star Trek movies. You can keep tabs on all updates on the next movie via our Star Trek XIV category.