Noah Hawley On The Challenge Of Making A Star Trek Movie With So Much Trek On TV

In August, Paramount’s new head of movies put the Star Trek film franchise on hold as she considered her next steps. Up until his project was put “in stasis,” writer/director Noah Hawley was tasked to be the one to bring Star Trek back to the big screen. In a new interview, he joins the chorus of those pondering what Star Trek should do next, and how things have changed since he was originally hired a year ago.

Hawley talks Trek movie challenge

In a wide-ranging interview with Collider, of course the subject of Star Trek came up. Instead of getting into details about his project, Hawley talked about the challenge of making a Star Trek film for Paramount after the ViacomCBS merger, with CBS All Access (soon to be Paramount+) expanding their output of Star Trek TV shows.

COLLIDER: Do you think with the amount of Star Trek TV series that are on the air, making a feature film is that much harder because there is so much in the marketplace with Star Trek?

HAWLEY: One of the biggest challenges that anybody has right now is, what is the feature film business? Certainly, we are at a moment when the movie theater experience is dormant, at least for a year or two. And the only way to make your money back on a $100 million-plus movie is box office. If you can’t rely on that, how do you run that business unless you have a really strong streaming play, which Disney tried with Mulan by charging $30 for it. You can make your money that way, but it’s yet to be proven out that people will spend $30 for a home viewing experience. I think that is one of the biggest challenges out of making a film out of a brand that people who are already getting a taste of. It’s making sure that it is going to justify the expense of it.

Zachary Quinto, who starred as Spock in the last three Trek films, also recently pondered the same issue, noting that the world of Star Trek is “a saturated market at this point, so I am not sure what the plans are for the feature film versions of the franchise.” And there is no indication that ViacomCBS will be letting up; Alex Kurtzman said just last week that they are already mapping out plans for Star Trek on TV through 2027.

Hawley was brought in by Paramount in 2019 after the Star Trek 4 project with Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth movie was shelved. Even after 2016’s Star Trek Beyond underperformed, Paramount had hoped to still move forward with the project, but with a reduced budget; however, Hemsworth and Pine would not agree to a salary cut. Hawley has previously indicated that his Star Trek film would introduce a new cast and be less focused on action, all of which translates to a smaller budget.

Collider asked Hawley about going low budget (perhaps even very low budget) with a Star Trek film:

COLLIDER: Is it possible to make a $25-$50 million Star Trek movie that hard sci-fi that is appealing to maybe one quadrant, the die-hard fans, the people that love the genre? A very smart, intelligent sci-fi movie without the big action set pieces. And maybe that is the way that a Star Trek film needs to be made.

HAWLEY: I think that’s possible, although what you get into with the film companies that don’t have a strong streaming play, is they are not in the business of making a little bit of money. The only business they can be in is the making a lot of money business. It’s the tentpole business. So if you were to offer them a $20 million Star Trek movie that could at best earn $80, $90, or $100 million, it might not even be worth the price of admission for them, if that makes sense. I’m sure you could go to CBS All Access and say, “Let me make a 2-hour Star Trek movie for streaming.” That might be worth it.

When news first broke over the summer about Paramount’s Emma Watts putting Hawley’s project on hold, it was reported she was considering bringing back the Star Trek 4 project with Chris Hemsworth in hopes of getting Star Trek to perform well at the global box office. Reading between the lines of what Hawley has to say, it’s possible his more modest Star Trek project may not fit with the latest thinking from the studio.

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If Paramount wants to get a Trek movie going any time soon, they’re going to have to get that tent-pole out of their ass and actually consider the streaming movie format. ‘TV Movie’ is no longer a stigma because of Netflix, and they seem to be doing just fine with making popular movies. I’d personally love to see them get creative with a smaller budget geared specifically toward the streaming format. Paying $30 for a movie is a stop-gap measure to recoup what they’ve already spent. It’s not a viable model moving forward, neither is hoping for a theater release in the near future.

Unfortunately a ST movie produced specifically for Paramount’s upcoming streaming platform would almost inevitably wind up under the umbrella of Kurtzman Trek. Pass.

I agree.

Star Trek has never been a “tentpole” kind of movie franchise, and the attempts to make it one have given us some of the worse films (e.g. NEMESIS).

As well, I think it’s a bit of a red herring to say that the franchise can’t support a tentpole movie if demand is satisfied by streaming. Marvel and DC have been able to be financially successful across media, as have SW.

The blunt fact is that a Trek cinematic feature isn’t $800 million revenue earner. Loyal fans seeing a single every few years over and over doesn’t sustain a studio.

A related issue is that if tentpole features are the only thing that is worth bringing to the movieplexes, one wonders if the format can survive. That is another discussion, but a related one since the parent National Amusements hasn’t totally divested from owning cinemas/theatres.

I’d like to see Trek streaming movies, or an anthology of them. It might be a good way to test out what works in a 2 hour stand alone.

Kurtzman is fine on the strategy, I think he could lose the reins on editing and some of the control he holds close on final products if these were seen as experimental like Short Treks.

“Star Trek has never been a “tentpole” kind of movie franchise, and the attempts to make it one have given us some of the worse films (e.g. NEMESIS).’

If Paramount wanted to make Nemesis a tentpole, maybe they shouldn’t have made a so-so EDITOR the director of the movie as a buddy favor, who hadn’t directed anything decent before (and since)! Apart from being an avowed anti-Trek fan and showcasing his ignorance and disdain for the cast at every instance. I’d say, therefore, Nemesis failed at the very highest levels, as tentpole and otherwise.

The lesson here is: half-a$$ed won’t get you anywhere!

Mr Baird was actually an in demand editor especially of action films who stepped up as director with ‘executive decision’

Nemesis was never considered a tentpole movie. Budgeted at $60 million, it was way down the list. Other 2002 franchise movies such as Spider-Man, Men in Black II and Die Another Day were budgeted at $140 million. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Minority Report were budgeted at $100 million. Nemesis was given a low-rent director and dumped into the “second-tier movies” release date hell of halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s not a tentpole.

I wouldn’t call Nemesis a tentpole movie though. Another poster said it,it only cost $60 million at the time. It was 2002 so it wasn’t considered cheap but it was still a pretty budgeted film for a big franchise movie. That same year Attack of the Clones came out and literally cost twice that.

But I also agree, maybe it’s just a better idea to try and do streaming movies (or what some fans called in a previous thread, a long Trek ;)). But make one for around $30 million and just stream it on All Access. And then you make completely new cast of characters as well because the stakes aren’t so high. And it could be enough just to get hardcore and casual fans to watch it. They could make one every year in fact.

And frankly this is yet another thing All Access is missing and that is original movies. Every major streaming site makes their own original films: Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc all have many movies they make. AA is just so behind it’s no shock why it’s getting a reinvention. Hopefully with Paramount+ it will start making some original films as well, Star Trek or not.

But a smaller Star Trek film via streaming is probably the best way to go these days. Paramount clearly don’t feel confident another movie is going to light up the box office and for most fans they don’t really care about something that can deliver explosions every ten minutes or characters base jumping, they just want a thoughtful story first and foremost.

Good idea, Tiger. A series of standalone streaming movies with its own cast each could be our entrance into the much-vaunted Trek live-action anthology :)

I read an article recently that The Paramount Network plans to change strategy and focus on doing “movie-of-the-week” kind of productions. These would be lower budget than theatrical movies. I guess these could also end up on Paramount+.
I have no idea whether they would consider Trek as a potential candidate for such a movie of the week. I guess the big strategical question for Paramount is: Do they want to keep Star Trek as one of their “big (tentpole) franchises” or do they “downgrade” it to the low-to-mid budget range?

Tentpole is a term that gets tossed around loosely. If you recall, when Paramount announced Top Gun II, they referred to it as a franchise. Trek is a tentpole in the same vein that Bond is, in that they have been making them forever, and the franchise remains profitable. Tentpole in the era of the cinematic universe is another story. Paramount had visions of Trek becoming their Marvel….and that expectation was doomed to fail almost from the beginning, and for reasons not related to Bad Robot coming on board. Trek isn’t that kind of tentpole, and never will be.

Well they missed asking him what he considered a realistic production budget for his own proposed movie (it was probably more than $25-50 million).

So who knows Paramount’s reason for suddenly thinking a previously-shelved project written by two unknowns, which Chris-and-Chris-in-the-mornings already walked out on, is more viable.

Most of those conversations came from investor and analyst meetings. They are more in line with keeping the financial guys calm, convincing them the studio has IP’s they can go to to make money, as opposed to specific commitments to individual projects.

Despite the question, he doesn’t mention Trek on TV at all — he’s talking about what’s happening to movies right now because of Covid. It’s a good point.

Really, the only major theatrical release has been Tenet (that terrible Russell Crowe movie doesn’t count). As far as I can tell, the only big-budget studio pictures still filming now are ones that started before Covid.

Actually he does. When he says “I think that is one of the biggest challenges out of making a film out of a brand that people who are already getting a taste of.” That “taste” is of course Star Trek on CBS All Access. He also brought up CBS All Access in the following answer.

This interview was telling for a couple of reasons. It was interesting that 25-50MM for a production budget came up in a conversation about Trek movies (recall that BR said the 200MM was the optimal number). Also that the theater business could be dormant for a year or two. If industry insiders don’t see the theater distribution as viable for another fifteen months, and, for example, if they loved Hawley’s Trek project, It’s a year out before they even get started. This interview likely occurred before Paramount announced the Jenkins/Gadot Cleopatra project, so the studio environment has changed further since then. It’s very likely that feature length Trek projects will be streaming features before returning to the big screen.

Lol what?
1994: ST Generations came out. TNG ended that year, DS9 started its 3rd season, and Voyager premiered January 1995.
1996: ST First Contact came out when both DS9 and Voyager were on.

They were pretty successful

Berman Trek machine turned on itself fairly quickly after that through. With the geek backlash against Generations and ‘Caretaker’ serving as a rapid one-two punch in a lot of sci-fi magazines of the time (particularly the short-lived Sci-Fi Universe, which Mark Altman edited for).

And I think it’s already more generally accepted that the ST coming out of Kurtzman/CBS, even compared to what came out of Berman Trek in its latter decade of decline, is just not very good. The ST market is not only saturated, it’s saturated with mediocrity unless things start improving like, yesterday.

On the positive side, much of the target audience for a hypothetical feature film (not streaming) version of ST might not even know Mediocre Trek’s already been back on TV… even after a couple more years when movies presumably start coming back.

What backlash against Caretaker? I remember it being pretty well received at the time. The trouble with Voyager grew as it rapidly became TNG-lite and pretty much dropped the interesting concept of a crew that is half-Starfleet and half-Maquis.

Rapidly is a good description of it. I’m pretty sure Sci-Fi Universe slammed VOY right out of the box. From my personal experience, the pilot seemed well received with the viewing party we had on campus, but was immediately followed with a string of eps that weren’t.

And yet Voyager is the series most watched on Netflix.

It’s stood up so much better than 90s fans expected and has been the entry series for the fans that the studio most needs to reach now.

This is surely why Janeway will be the star of Prodigy and Seven is a featured character on Picard.

It’s got the best traction globally, target-aged fans cite it as the series that first brought them into Trek and it continues to be successful drawing in preteens the way TOS once did.

(I would find this hard to believe if I hadn’t seen how our kids took to Voyager.)

Voy Borg EPs are the most watched

Again, we have to stop comparing how these shows did 20 years ago on a low watch network that not even the entire county got at the time to today where new mediums have now given these shows a new leash on life and access like never before on a global scale.

It’s literally akin to comparing how well TOS did on NBC when it aired compared to its time in syndication later. Yeah the shows got smaller audiences as they went on a network, but that has zero bearing on its popularity today, especially with so many new viewers watching these shows for the first time around the world.

As you said, it’s literally why Janeway is coming back next year, clearly they know enough old viewers will tune into Prodigy while it will get new viewers to try out Voyager no different than the Kelvin movies and Discovery enticed new viewers to check out TOS or Picard and LDS pushes new viewers to try TNG/DS9/VOY.

Yeah, I do find it hard to believe.

VOY’s the only classic ST I’ll stream because I never bought the DVDs. I’d be curious how the DVD sales compare (Unless there’s a way to check what they were as of 2012, I don’t assume the TNG double-dip would be very significant).

Only other thing I can figure is maybe TNG just takes too long to get good if people try streaming it in sequence. But I would think TNG has more pay-off.

Is there still an ’80s backlash? I can’t imagine there would be after this many decades. But maybe the more flashy titles turn people off?

I know at the time of ENT there were at least some VOY fans who simply could not get into TNG. What TNG looked like to a VOY newcomer I have no idea.

But as a fan of TNG, I could never ignore that all the TNG spinoffs (including ENT, which WAS primarily another TNG spinoffs) were, essentially, TNG.

What’s crazy is Caretaker is the most watched pilot out of any Star Trek show by far in history. 21 million people watched it!

No other Trek premiere has ever got anywhere close to that. DS9 and ENT got around 12 million viewers in their launch episodes and Discovery only got 9 million when the first episode premiered on CBS. And yes Caretaker was definitely well received at the time. But yes also true that good will didn’t last that long and ratings started to fall after season 2. Still great for UPN, but nowhere close to where it was.

I think how many people had anticipations for Voyager and tuned in says nothing about the quality of the pilot. And while all Trek series except TOS (with the marvelous “The Cage” and still excellent Where No Man Has Gone Before) had ho-hum pilots, Caretaker ranks near the bottom for me together with Broken Bow and the Vulcan Hello (still a silly title, especially for a title!) There was so much unrealized potential and so many half-baked ideas in there. A whole region of space where *water* is sparse? For warp civilizations, really? Did these guys fluke high school astronomy lessons already? (I suppose Voyager’s shaky relationship with science got an early start here, and stands second – but with distance – to Discovery’s science fantasy only!)

Yes but I don’t remember any ‘backlash’ with it. Plenty of people loved the premiere at the time. I watched it with a lot of friends and they all loved it. But I’m not saying it was perfect or anything but at the time it seem like most people liked it. To me its kind like the first Kelvin movie, that movie had TONS of issues but people still seem to really like it just the same.

But yeah the Kazon not finding water when they had warp drive was always bizarre lol. Even the Voyager cast made fun of that at a convention I watched on Youtube.

I guess what I mean is it’s one thing people just didn’t like something, it’s another when they are just hellbent ANGRY about it. STID for example has outright fan backlash lol. It’s become our version TLJ or TROS, whichever one you hate more ;). There was heavy resentment it was even part of canon. I never remotely got that with Caretaker or Voyager in general. Some fans just didn’t like it, but I never saw anyone angry over it just for it existing.

Generations made 118 million worldwide. First Contact performed a little better with 146 million. Yes, they both probably turned a profit, but as Hawley points out that may not be the financial range Paramount is after. Also, I don’t think there have been a lot of space movies in that below-50-million budget range in recent years.

Star Trek movies box office have a ceiling, and that’s ok. Trying to force Star Trek into a 4-quadrant demographic pleaser just will not work. If Paramount wants to do that, then just rename it.

I don’t mind change, but not to the point it’s “in name only.”

Why can’t Star Trek movies be a mid-range production? Like in the $50-$80 million budget, so if the world BO is $300 million then that’s ok. At least we will get good Star Trek.

VXZ, who knows if, on the other side of COVID-19, there will be a place in the market for a sci-fi movie that makes $300 million?

In the meantime though, a good 2 to 2.5 hour streaming movie would be a great way to figure out what kind of stand alone stories in the Trek franchise universe would be viable.

Anyone who has watched the LDs episode “Crisis Point” can see that Trek movies have gotten stuck in some pretty silly tropes.

That episode makes a solid case that some serious work and experimentation is needed to come up with something fans will respect and non-fans will pay to see.

Hawley’s idea sounds as though it might make a great streaming event, and wouldn’t need a premium extra charge like Mulan did.

I suspect that the biggest issue is that Paramount needs to be making profitable things but doesn’t seem to know what business it is in; whereas CBS Studios is ticking along on the television side of the house.

Embarking on CLEOPATRA seems like a weird, financially unsound and desperate gamble for Paramount, sort of like MGM spending it all on ’59’s BEN-HUR. If they need a mega-giga hit that badly, they aren’t just on the ropes, they must have taken multiple standing-8 counts. I would define that level of desperation as unwarranted, even in this current situation, but since I’m not in their boardroom …

kmart, I’m with you on this.

Paramount (the cinematic side) seems to be incapable of good strategic thinking.

I think I’ve said that they have all the markers of not knowing what business they are in (as the management school strategic wags put it).

As much as many of us have critiques of Kurtzman, he does have incredible strategic smarts and likely single-handedly saved the value of the franchise when the CBS side couldn’t see it’s strategic worth. (The original working title / pseudonym for Discovery, “Green Harvest” , gives away the thinking.

Can you point to recent mid-range budget (e.g. 50-80 million) sci-fi productions that made around 300 million worldwide?

“Ad Astra” from last year comes close with a 90m budget, but it only grossed 127m globally.
Even a franchise movie like “Alien: Covenant” only grossed 240m on a 97m budget.

Sci-fi, but not really space movies:
“Arrival” made 203m on a 47m budget. Earth-bound with a UFO.
“Chappie” made 103m on a 49m budget. Earth-bound again, with robots.
If you go back almost 10 years, “Super 8” (by JJ Abrams, ironically) made 260m on a 50m budget. Again, it’s earth-bound with some monster elements. Not really comparable to Trek.

It seems that recent sci-fi movies have either been really low-budget, more experimental/art house productions, or really big budget tentpoles. And not too few of them have failed commercially.

Looking at the recent Trek shows it should be possible to produce a Trek movie in the 50-80m budget range that at least looks decent. However, I have no idea what its chances would be at the box office. Core fans alone wouldn’t be able to carry it.

The nearest would be…

Gravity was made for $100 million and made $720 million worldwide.

The Martian was made for $110 million and made $630 million.

Passengers was made for $110 million and made $323 million.

Ask Jonathan Frakes if he could make a good Star Trek movie for $110 million…

I will say either of those movies was a better scifi film than the last FIVE Star Trek movies combined! Seeing the ROI, it seems audiences agreed, and maybe Paramount should tap the people behind these movies rather than waste more money on BR…

“Gravity” is special in that it’s basically a one-woman survival story that happens to take place in space. Even George Clooney doesn’t get much more than a cameo. It was also unique in the way it was shot.
“The Martian” is also basically the story of one person trying to survive alone with very little in a barren wilderness (which happens to be Mars).

While I did enjoy both I’m not sure it’s the kind of story fans would want for Star Trek.

Since he directs a lot of TV, Jonathan Frakes could definitely shoot a Star Trek movie for 110m if handed a script that matched the budget. However, he doesn’t seem to be interested in writing so he probably wouldn’t be the person developing that movie. And if handed a bad script he probably wouldn’t be able to salvage it.
There’s also absolutely no telling whether it could replicate the success of either Gravity or The Martian.

Both those movies are about problem solving in adversity.
There is ‘trek’ movie in to be made in that way

Good point Tony.

“Working the problem” and coming up with unorthodox, smart and mostly nonviolent solutions has been a trademark across the television franchise.

I’d argue less so for the movies though.

Part of the bigger spectacle and over-the-top scenery-chewing villains of many of the Trek movies (as rightly skewered in LDs 109 “Crisis Point” ) is that relatively less time and emphasis is given to wit and problem solving.

I’ve also argued that it’s an issue in Discovery and Picard. Cheerleading the “power of math” or saying how much “I like science” doesn’t cut it.

Having just rewatched the Discovery S2 finale, I’d say one of the most authentic moments is when Queen Po is working out how to apply her dilithium incubation technology to charge the time crystal. She’s running ahead, Reno is following and helping others keep up and Mirror Georgiou gets big-footed for snarking and not getting with the program.

Generations was successful despite being a terrible and lackluster film. It was based on long running and beloved television series Star Trek TNG, and it had Shatner in it. I would argue its the worst of the 4 TNG movies in terms of the script making no darn sense. Killing off Kirk for a stupid reason and for no payoff. That isn’t to say the directing by David Carson was bad it was very good, or the cinematography, or the score. But the script shouldn’t have been filmed. It was terrible. Better than the backup script of Kirk as a Holodeck character, but still terrible. And i would argue that the Nexus was basically a Holodeck of sorts. I will admit i liked the Enterprise B and i liked Demora Sulu. But the TNG part is a disaster and the middle and end of the film are also.

Why is this so hard for them? The further they get from classic Star Trek — either by plot, characters or format, the less successful they are. The Kelvin movies were based on TOS. All the current stuff deconstructs the original format. They want a general audience — the same audience that innately knows Starfleet officers can’t act like disgruntled office workers and be believable. On a ship, you do your job or everybody suffers. How long did it take the fifteen year olds that saw ST2009 to figure out, based on their own lives, nobody gets to command a battleship that easily? They don’t need money, either. They spent outlandishly on JJ Trek without building an engineering set. Just get a good story and characters.

Hear hear! People just want a fun space adventure (starring super competent characters who like each other and work together as a team) that has a basic amount of logical plausibility to its story (accepting that starships and warp drive and transporters etc can all exist) – the most successful Trek movie with non-fans was The Voyage Home, I’ve shown it to countless non-fan friends who loved it, because it’s just a FUN movie. Likeable characters, funny moments, a bit of action, a plot that makes sense (even if it’s ridiculous like going back in time to save whales). It’s not rocket science, though you couldn’t tell from the stuff they’ve been delivering!

The first film was definitely successful in America. It was a solid movie with good reviews but it was also one that was made to look like a Star Wars movie with a young and attractive cast. And a lot of people were just curious to see the TOS roles played by new people. But once the novelty wore off and the casual audience stopped caring the movies just didn’t hold people like they should have. Why Beyond lost $100 million in America alone compared to the 09 movie, but yet it also cost $40 million more than the first one.

That’s just not a good place to be in when deciding to throw more money at these movies and your core audience has dwindled to that level in just 3 films.

It’s safe to say it’s going to be years before we know what the market conditions are like for Box Office movies. It would be foolish to bet on a Star Trek film at this point no matter how you slice it.

Before we talk about the future of Trek in movies, we should ensure that MOVIES have a future.

Got it Gary 8.5.

They’ll be back. Movies are still primarily a social experience. Direct-to-streaming is filling-in in a pinch (Greyhound, Mulan, Enola Holmes) but it just isn’t the same.

COLLIDER: Is it possible to make a $25-$50 million Star Trek movie that hard sci-fi that is appealing to maybe one quadrant, the die-hard fans, the people that love the genre? A very smart, intelligent sci-fi movie without the big action set pieces. And maybe that is the way that a Star Trek film needs to be made.

STAR TREK II and STAR TREK III proved this in ’82 and ’84 – low cost films that made decent return – it CAN BE DONE! Especially with advancements in technology.

Hawley is playing from Harv’s playbook- HE GETS IT!

I’m sure you could go to CBS All Access and say, “Let me make a 2-hour Star Trek movie for streaming.” That might be worth it.

He’s got a script,and has proven himself on Television…why not go that route?

If the Kurtzman Trek machine didn’t just take his script, hire their own people to re-write it, get Frakes or another one of their regular directors to shoot it, and shaft Hawley with a “story by” credit underneath that of nineteen other writers, producers and contractually-obligated mentions. Basically what they (seem to) do to any outsider who’s talent/insight poses a danger of outshining or intimidating their committee of people.

You sum it up so perfectly Sam! Until the committee stops making new Trek it’s just going to continue to be a confused mess of mediocrity. I can’t be excited about any new offering, on TV or film, as long as they’re involved.

The 80s were THREE decades ago, going on FOUR.

Whatever Star Trek II and III may have “proved” it’s relevance to today’s market cannot be assumed.

Technology, the entertainment market and the way we lived are lives were very different.

The target-aged viewers weren’t even born.

Good storytelling is ageless. (true for a lot of effects work as well, which is why TMP and parts of TWOK still often look tons better than 21st century efforts.)

I’ve seen THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, and while dealing with such compelling source material certainly helps (and I’ve been a student of that era my whole life and have seen MEDIUM COOL a whole lotta times), the actual quality of the writing is what I found really mindblowingly good. There’s a scene just before the sentencing that … I can’t spoil it, but it is so deft I actually came up off the couch and was shouting ‘that’s brilliant!’ to the air. It was true to the actual people while still being whole cloth invention by Sorkin and perfectly timed in its placement. Who’s to say Hawley isn’t capable of Sorkin-like greatness? Based on the first couple seasons of FARGO and LEGION (all that I’ve seen of his work), not I.

Agreed, there could be a great Hawley film, but that wouldn’t be so much in the tradition of a American “entertainment” film (with a big crisis/action scene in the opening 10 minutes), but something that would appeal to smaller but global audiences.

The issue is the timing. This just isn’t the market it was 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

As I said further above, I am really wondering if there will be a market for cinematic features after COVID that aren’t reliant on the pull of the high tech vfx or IMAX market.

COVID hasn’t been just a short term disruption. Will the audience come back? What kinds of films will draw them back? Will the theatres survive until they can come back?

I agree that in the longer-term, say 4-5 years, there will be some kind of industry, but I don’t know what it will look like.

Taking a step back, widespread use of VCRs and DVD players and the rise and fall of Blockbuster Video – major market changes for cinema products – have taken place since TMP was released. These technologies influenced the kinds of movies that were made, and now so is streaming.

Just saying that there will be a great place for good stories just doesn’t cut it as an argument – if it did, we’d have all been watching European films for the last 50 years.

I for one would LOVE to watch a “$25-$50 million Star Trek movie that hard sci-fi that is appealing to maybe one quadrant, the die-hard fans, the people that love the genre? A very smart, intelligent sci-fi movie without the big action set pieces.”, the other three quadrants be damned!

In terms of script (not necessarily SFX expenditures), movies like Gravity, Interstellar and (maybe more fitting budget-wise) Arrival have proven there is a market for smart, hard scifi even outside Trek!

He has NOT proven himself with a successful movie and to be quite honest I didn’t like his TV series either. Please keep him away from Trek.

That’s just NOT realistic for today though, not for franchise movies anyway. Plenty of writers and directors think like Hawley does because for them, it’s NOT about how much money they can drive to the studio, they are just trying to make a decent movie.

But the studio has a different goal, to make as much money as possible. Film budgets and distribution was just a very different time in the 80s. Hollywood didn’t rely on international box office then like it does today. If relied on America first and foremost and any money it got abroad was mostly a bonus.

Today that has flipped. Its the international BO that they concentrate on and why most movies do about 20-30% of their revenue in America but 70-80% outside of it.

A great example of all of this are the MCU movies. They actually hire people like Hawley all the time who were small budget directors or started on TV first. They are not handing them $50 million budgets to make Captain America or Black Panther. They are still given $150 movies because they want these films to compete on a global level and that takes money.

But yes it’s why maybe it’s a good idea to do these movies on a streaming level. There you can just make smaller movies. And streaming is just where things are heating up. Amazon Prime just brought Coming America 2 to stream this December because the theaters are going to be dead for a long time so now is actually the best time to make moderate type films and run them on streaming.

Maybe Paramount could do 3 of more streaming Kelvin timeline movies ( more thoughtful ones ),
for what is paid for one theatrical feature. Or a series for Hawley’s concept.

Star Trek movies and TV can coexist if they don’t interfere with each other. He is still trying to figure out what to do next. I feel bad for him.

We saw this with the Avengers movies and Agent Carter and Agents of Shield on TV at the same time, but neither of those TV shows were particularly solid hits.

Hmmm. Agents of SHIELD was 95% on Rotten Tomatoes – and was renewed for 7 seasons. You don’t usually get to 7 seasons unless there are positive ratings.

While it lost audience share for live viewing, particularly towards the end of its run, it had consistently very high viewing numbers on DVR and catch-up streaming (via cablecos or network apps, not sure if this includes iTunes subscriptions or Netflix outside the USA?), so it really did have a significant audience.

(It even got mentioned in an SNL cold open sketch once, so it clearly had enough broad recognition for mainstream audiences.)

Agent Carter was a fun prequel series – it was nice to see that its storylines and characters were kept canon with mentions in SHIELD and the various MCU movies – ultimately though you know how things turn out.

That’s the same issue that Star Trek would have had with a pure prequel trilogy. Without the alternate timeline, there’s no compelling reason to watch things. It’s fun to see mentions of past canon, but knowing that everyone survives means there’s no real stakes.

I think the MCU has done something interesting because they mostly fixed things but it’s clear that the timeline has had some changes. The Snap was reversed with The Blip, but now we have Loki running amok with the Tesseract, Wanda / Vision trapped in some weird reality, and it appears the multiverse concept that was teased in Into the Spider-Verse may be actually becoming mainstream in the next Doctor Strange and Spider-Man films.

MCU been good on dealing with consequences, collateral damage whether it the fall of SHIELD or sovokia.

AoS never got higher than No.43 on the year-end ratings, and that was its first season. Season 2 was No.76 and Season 3 was No.85. Then it fell out of the Top 100 for the rest of its run. No, it was never a hit. No matter how hard ABC tried to make it a hit, AoS stubbornly refused. ABC kept it on because it was owned by Disney, their corporate masters.

I’m not saying it wasn’t a good show, it certainly had its charms. But a solid hit? Never.

probably because it did not give viewers the MCU experience promised, less links to the movies over time even with that ‘winter solider’ twist.
best thing it did was create its own mythology and do its own thing despite ratings fall.

Those shows suffered because they were not intergrated enough with the movies.
Something the Disney+ shows aim to correct.

Umm you can’t make a Trek movie for under 50 million these days, absolutely no way, not while delivering the genre spectacle that modern audiences would require to draw them in in such numbers to recoup the budget. That’s the unfortunate part of the Hollywood industry today, the business model of needing massive tentpole projects for even the chance to break even. Movies are more expensive than ever and require a global audience to make money, which requires an expensive advertising campaign and even more tickets sold to turn a profit. It’s out of control. Of course this was all pre-COVID — at this point I’m just hoping even half the theater industry survives the next year or two. That’s the thing, we keep thinking 2020 is the worst year ever, but the economic effects will truly start to pile up in 2021, when we’ll all be combing through the wreckage.

I think that’s the point though, the current model is unsustainable and not turning enough of a profit to be worthwhile, because the general audience just doesn’t care for Star Trek. So either it’s the end of Trek films, or they realise that it’s time to make smaller films for a niche audience.

But of course the problem extends beyond Star Trek. When your television series are all pitched as a 10 hour film, then what happens to the 2 hour films? The fact is, the media landscape is irrevocably shifting, and covid is just speeding up the process that streaming already began. I’d argue that there’s still an opportunity to tell smaller stories with slightly bigger budgets than two television episodes, but then they can’t seem to figure out how to make quality television serials yet so they should focus on that first and let the films lie fallow until they figure out what they’re doing in general.

“Umm you can’t make a Trek movie for under 50 million these days, absolutely no way”

I just checked and Arrival cost 47 million in 2016 dollars, despite having a TMP vibe in smartness, grandeur and sense of wonder for the unknown (but not the price tag).

Who wouldn’t want to see a Trek movie like this, without the tired and silly revenge-driven cartoon villains and race-to-the-bottom, ever more ridiculous fantasy set pieces? Clearly, for the last Trek movies, those four quadrant general audiences didn’t come for the latter either!

It’s been years since I saw Arrival but as far as I remember it’s basically a tent camp on an open field. You don’t get to see much in terms of ship interiors either. Yes, there’s the bright wall where they communicate with the aliens but that’s a VFX. Arrival was very clever in making it look much grander than the production actually was.

Even without big action set pieces you’d need a lot more money for sets, props, costumes, etc. to build out a somewhat convincing Star Trek world, plus make up effects to populate it with aliens. You could probably do the external ship shots for relatively cheap assuming you keep it simple. Where it gets complicated is if you have complex interactions between practical elements and VFX.

Cineworld has closed down here in UK and over US I heard.
They simply could not afford to continue trading with no new releases hitting and so few customers coming through the doors. Staff there have lost their jobs. This tells me that the company is not at all confident that they will be able to open for a very long period, and have been forced to let go of these people.
I think if this were to continue well into 2021 then theatre businesses are not going to survive.
Even when they open its going to to be a big challenge to get more people though the doors for all sorts of reasons.

It’s Regal Cinema’s in the US, and they are closed until the end of the year. I believe AMC is in bankruptcy as well, though not expected to cease operations. There’s little reason to believe the theater experience is going to return to normal anytime in the first two quarters of 2021, it’ll take even longer if “ignore it and it’ll go away’ gets a second term. It does sound like in these interviews with directors they are coming to grips that the entertainment industry changes are being seen as something permanent.

The hole cast must return.

Actually Hawley’s movie had a completely different cast from the Kelvin movies. Honestly I wouldn’t my breath we will see the Kelvin cast again unless Pine is willing to lower his fee for another movie.

OK so all that sudden publicity peddling after keeping mum for years and years surely means:

Hawley really really REALLY wants to make that movie!

If not for this pesky pandemic…

“The only business they can be in is the making a lot of money business. It’s the tentpole business.”

Aaaand now flash back to around 10 years ago, when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were warning about this very business model that Hollywood was slipping into.

Maybe movie studios being run by corporate bean-counters and other soulless minions of orthodoxy isn’t good for the movie business in the long run?

I have bad news for the bean counters: “movie tentpoles” may turn out to be the A380 of movie business models… and both have been killed by the pandemic!

Lucas sold out to the very system he used to mock without mercy, the studio types who he accused of being souless bankers.Then he acted surprised when they threw his Star Wars sequel outlines in the trash. When Mark Hamill was playing Jake Skywalker instead of Luke. Lucas should never have sold to Disney.

lucas wanted out of the SW business because of the vitriolic attitude of so called ‘fans’.

Yup. He had his fill.

Yeah and now they are begging him to take it over again lol. Just proves fanbases can be a very frustrating.

His money, his ideas, his stories. He did exactly what he wanted to do without outside interference and he did it at a very deliberate pace. What he did do was walk away after years of abuse from fans and critics alike and what was the result after he sold it all? The studio that acquired it and those who were put in place to move his creation forward demonstrated that they didn’t grasp what made Star Wars successful in the first place.

Yup. If only it would have been possible to get through to Lucas and make him understand that his dramatic visions become far superior movies when stays in his creative/story-by wheelhouse and cedes the directing and editing duties to people who are better at it than he. And ffs, don’t write the movie to suit the merchandising (ROTJ). Anyway, if only. . . .

For the price of one tent peg Star Trek movie, the studio could make 6 streaming movies covering off fandom, period.

Going the Paramount+ route is not a bad idea. Here that Kurtzman? You say you want to make some Star Trek that appeals to every fan. Have them let him make this movie. Although I’m afraid they might suggest he could retool it as a two hour pilot for a new show and then interfere to the point he leaves the project. Is that a crazy fear to have? I’d really rather see the movie how he originally planned and hope someday we will.

There seems to be a trend these days, because of the corona situation obviously, to move some movies into services like Hulu or Amazon. I am thinking about the Welcome to Blumhouse concept Hulu is doing with horror movies or Brannon Braga’s own horror feature Books of Blood for Amazon. I am wondering if a similar concept would work Star Trek. Anthological movies, spread over a year or several years, airing on streaming networks.

tv content is not the problem.
it is taking the movies out of the narrow formula they have become stuck in for most of 40 odd years.
other recent sf movies like ‘interstellar’, ‘gravity’, ‘the martian’ have shown the way forward.
people can handle a more cerebral ‘trek’ movie now.

This may be, but Paramount would have to decide that it is in the business of making and marketing those kinds of films.

In the meantime. $25 million can buy a lot for a 2 hour stand alone television straight-to-streaming “event” movie. More, it could be a really useful test-of-concept for these kinds of Trek stories.

That business model no longer working for the films.

Funny, ‘khan’ almost ended up on TV until paramount okayed a cinema release.

Paramount was trying to decide what to do after TMP (which was a actually a success at the box office, but not as big as they’d hoped because it had been so expensive) So they decided to try a sequel, but to keep costs down they brought in TV production crews (Harve Bennett and Co.) But I’ve never read that they considered making a TV movie after TMP.

In those days, there really was no such thing as a big-budget film series. Using Paramount Television to make TWOK was actually in line with what Universal did with their Airport sequels, all of which were produced by Universal Television.

Well, that certainly explains a lot about the later Airport movies! I’ve always liked ’75 for the in-flight pilot transfer scene (which was really exciting to this 11 year old kid at the time,) but the other two were dreadful. Even ’75 is more or less unwatchable today (another classic disaster movie I liked back then but which I can’t watch at all now is Earthquake.)

After Covid, what we used to know as movie theaters will become digital entertainment and community centers. Music, politics, weddings. This is the way we were heading over the last several years and now change (or progress) will be accelerated.

Hawley makes the point in the interview that television has now caught up with theatrical films in the ability to show epic spectacle. Shows like Game of Thrones, the Mandalorian, and presumably the upcoming Lord of the Rings show have special effects and scope equal to movies. I wonder if movie theaters will start showing some of these series on the big screen at some point. That would be an interesting experiment.

To be fair, Kutzman himself said the same thing at the beginning of season 2 of Discovery. He directed that first episode and said it brought out the same type of effects and spectacle you can find in the movies at a TV budget. And that movies are becoming less important because you are getting a lot of it in the shows now while paying at just a fraction of the price as well.

And I give a lot of credit to these streaming sites because originally the fear was internet shows were going to just be cheap and low quality. But instead the opposite has happened and they are some of the best looking stuff today. They basically started at high level quality and gets more so today with competition so high.

I don’t think movie theaters are going away, which has been a fear literally since the invention of the television. BUT I do think we are going to see more of melding between theaters and these sites as you can now just make any move ondemand to millions of peoples homes and access is now everywhere. And Covid 19 is only accelerating that relationship more.

Hawley is basically saying what many of us has been saying for years now and that is studios don’t want to make moderate movies for moderate profits anymore, at least not for their big franchises. They expect those to wield as much money as possible or its not even worth doing.

That’s sadly why Star Trek is in the state it’s in movie wise. They clearly don’t have confidence a $150-200 movie is going to being any huge profits or like Beyond could simply bomb. But then no one seems all that interested in making a movie under $100 million because it’s not going to get close to the box office they want UNLESS the movie just takes off on its own and get huge word of mouth, but that’s very unrealistic. They rather just use that money on a bigger movie they think CAN bring them a bigger box office. That’s how these studios have been thinking for 20 years now and the last 10 especially so.

The best compromise is probably to make a lower budget Trek film for streaming All Access/Paramount+. The expectations are much lower but it’s guaranteed to bring out tons of fans. At this point it’s probably the safest bet. I just don’t think another film will even make it to the theaters for another 3-5 years minimum. Its also why all the focus is on TV now, the movie side has just died out.

Well put Tiger2.

I cannot stomach paying $30 for any streaming movie. Mulan made $33M in its streaming debut from a little over 1 million subscribers. Is this good? I wouldn’t pay that much to see any Star Trek film at that price, especially if its at home. I’d rather experience it on a huge screen and pay $20..Covid19 risks notwithstanding. :)

I don’t know what it costs to stream a digital movie to theaters…perhaps its more and you have the different formats.. IMAX Digital and whatnot. These must cost more $ to distribute. Film purists like Spielberg agree, movies should be a communal experience and better appreciated in an auditorium

The problem with Trek TV today is that its very well done. Production values are very high..practically cinematic high and I’m sure the budget supports this well. A Trek movie has to be more than just a cheap production to justify that $17..$20 admission ticket. Make a great story..over a few films with that right combination of spectacle and drama and people will come.

I don’t think Hawley is the answer. He wants to reinvent the wheel that is not broken AGAIN by re-casting every major character from TOS. Let Hawley make a Star Trek movie. But find somebody else to fix or conclude the Kelvin Universe with the same cast. That universe is too integrated into modern canon to just disappear.

but it is broken.
‘beyond’ underperformed, they can’t get pine and others to sign up for a fourth and really the nostalgia for the OS/kelvin line doesn’t work.
they need to do something to take ‘trek’ forward not backwards at the movies.

We don’t know WHO the characters are in Hawley’s film. It may not have anything to do with TOS at all. It may be a story that takes place in the 25th century.

And obviously something is broken or Beyond would’ve at least made a profit. The reality is these movies are just not as popular as Paramount wanted and never really made the money they wanted, so chances are they may just be trying to go a different direction to make cheaper films going forward.

He has said the story has new characters but links to the ‘trek’ universe so we could see legacy characters included.

Yes, probably like what Discovery and Picard does now, but he didn’t say the main cast was TOS characters or ANY characters we know. They could mostly be brand new. And the legacy characters could literally be anyone we know as well.

Please keep this guy far away from Star Trek. His movie sounds boring.

Did they miss their window on a 4th Kelvin movie. Will we never get to see The Enterprise A and her crew on their second five year mission? I would pay to see it. But a small devoted fanbase isn’t enough for movies that cost 300 million after advertising costs. I’m not even sure Beyond broke even, if it did it was like barely. The studios are in business to make a profit not break even and waste years of their time and investment. I still don’t know why they thought Justin Lin automatically translates into Fast and Furious level money for Star Trek. I like him as a director, but i just don’t get Paramount. That is the real reason there haven’t been more Star Trek films they want them to break a billion dollars.

Of course, a Trek movie is also devalued by the existence of streaming Trek under the Kurtzman aesthetic, which he labels “cinematic”, by which he means BIG DUMB EMOTIONS, SOARING DUMB MUSIC, EPIC DUMB HERO’S JOURNEY, GRATUITOUS DUMB ACTION, MOODY DUMB LIGHTING, APOCALYPTIC DUMB THREATS, EVIL DUMB ROBOTS, SAVING THE ENTIRE DUMB UNIVERSE etc.