While it has been reported that Paramount has shelved plans for Star Trek 4, there is an indication the studio is still looking to bring more Star Trek to the big screen. In addition, talk of a re-merger of CBS and Viacom (Paramount’s parent company) is heating up yet again.
Paramount wants to breathe life into Trek, prez talks up Tarantino project
In a feature in the New York Times about Paramount Pictures efforts to turn around the studio, the subject of Star Trek came up as part of the studio’s future plans. The following excerpt from the article recounts the discussion with Paramount motion-picture group president Wyck Godfrey, who joined the studio in 2017:
Mr. Godfrey’s coming film lineup emphasizes big-budget, global-audience movies, known in Hollywood as tentpoles. A long-gestating “Top Gun” sequel is finally happening. Mr. Godfrey is working to breathe life into the tired “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Terminator,” “Star Trek” and “G.I. Joe” franchises. Paramount also has high hopes for films tied to Viacom’s cable networks, including “Dora the Explorer,” a live-action, big-screen adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon.
Whatever its box-office viability, though, such fare doesn’t quite scream “stand the test of time.”
But Mr. Godfrey insisted otherwise. Imagine, for instance, Paramount giving “Star Trek” to Quentin Tarantino. “Suddenly people’s eyes light up,” Mr. Godfrey said. “Yours just did.”
Last year Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos confirmed the studio had two Trek films in development: Star Trek 4 (the follow-up to 2016’s Star Trek Beyond), and another Star Trek film based on a pitch from Oscar-winning writer/director Quentin Tarantino, which was handed off to screenwriter Mark L. Smith. The Tarantino concept has been reported to be something separate, but could also involve the cast from the three Kelvin Star Trek films. McCoy actor Karl Urban described the pitch as “bananas.”
Expectations were that the Star Trek 4 project would go first, with production starting this year while Tarantino works on his latest film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, due out this summer. If the salary standoff with Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth has put the Star Trek 4 project back on the shelf, it is possible Paramount may put the Tarantino project forward as the next Trek feature, although it is unclear if or how negotiations with Chris Pine may affect it.
Paramount moving ahead on its core franchises with or without Bad Robot
However, based on the above comment and previous reports, Paramount, which has produced thirteen Star Trek features over the last four decades, is still looking to keep the franchise going on the big screen. Just as noted by Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in 2017, Star Trek is one of the core tentpole franchises for the studio, along with Transformers and Mission: Impossible.
A parallel for the future of Trek may be the Transformers franchise, which had seen declining results and following the 2017 release of The Last Knight, follow-ups to that film were put on hold and there was talk of a reboot of the franchise. However, with the success of the new Bumblebee spin-off, the studio is already looking forward to multiple Transformers releases, including a Bumblebee 2.
One area that will also have to be worked out is the involvement of producer J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot. Currently, Bad Robot is handling the development of Trek films, but Abrams’ deal with Paramount ends in 2020. Abrams is seeking a new mega-deal combining TV, film, and theme park work under one banner, and Paramount is not part of the competition to land Bad Robot for the next decade.
However, this should not be seen as having a major impact. It’s possible Bad Robot could work with Paramount even after a new mega-deal is done – as it has done with Disney on two Star Wars films – or the studio can continue with new producers. For example, the studio has just locked down Tom Cruise and director Chris McQuarrie for two more Mission: Impossible features. Bad Robot and Abrams have produced the latest four M:I movies and brought in McQuarrie for the last two films in the franchise.
Industry expects CBS and Viacom to re-merge in 2019
In other Star Trek-related business news, the buzz around Viacom and CBS re-merging has returned. 2018 talks regarding rejoining the media companies – which split in 2005 – became acrimonious and ended up in court. A settlement last September appeared to put a merger back on hold until 2020, however that agreement was only for controlling Shareholder Shari Redstone not to push for the merger, leaving the boards of the companies free to seek a deal on their own, which seems to be a strong possibility.
According to Bloomberg, the CBS board is set to meet one week from today (January 31st) “to discuss both the hunt for a permanent chief executive officer and the possibility of a merger with Viacom,” with Viacom CEO Robert Bakish considered a leading contender to run a potential combined CBS/Viacom. The New York Post has also reported that the hiring of a new CEO and the merger of Viacom and CBS are linked, with the announcement of a deal and new chief executive possibly being announced by March of April. Industry analysts are also again talking up a merger based on reporting from Barrons, TheWrap, and Deadline.
Of course, we have been down this road before, but with big changes on the CBS board, and with the main merger opponent, Les Moonves, no longer CEO, a merger is now looking more likely than ever.
A Star Trek cinematic universe?
If CBS and Viacom re-merge this year, it will once again bring all of Star Trek back under one corporate umbrella. With CBS making a big push into Star Trek for TV, there are many possibilities for creating synergies with the film franchise. And with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot exiting Paramount, it is possible that Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout Productions could end up with the whole franchise under its roof in the coming years.
TrekMovie talked to Kurtzman and his Secret Hideout partner Heather Kadin about the possibility of a merger at last week’s season two premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. Kurtzman said he has not had any conversations about taking on the Trek films, but he had some opinions on the future of the franchise on the big screen, saying he would “approach it more from the point of view of what kinds of stories can’t we tell on television that are better for the screen.” Kadin also noted that it would be ideal “to have everything play in the same universe.”
Keep up with all the news on Star Trek 4 and upcoming Trek films at TrekMovie.com.