Paramount plans to release their next Star Trek feature film in time for Christmas 2023, which will bring the Kelvin crew back together for a follow-up to Star Trek Beyond. Members of the cast have been expressing excitement over the project, including star Chris Pine. But the man who plays Captain Kirk is now speaking out about Paramount having realistic box office expectations.
Everyone is excited… but still waiting for that script
In an interview with Deadline, Chris Pine gave another update on the status of the movie with a bit more detail than was in his previous comments. He still hasn’t seen the script, but he has been having meetings about the project and remains enthusiastic:
I met the director, Matt [Shakman], who I really like. I met a producer on it that I really like. I know JJ [Abrams] is involved in it in some respects. I met the new people over at Paramount, which is many different kind of relations. I really liked them. Everybody seems excited about the prospect of it. There’s just simply no — I don’t have a tangible script to look at.
Conceptually, I love it. I love Star Trek. Again, I love the messaging of it. I love the character. I love my friends with whom I get to play. It’s a great gig. I mean, it’s a gig I’ve had, working and not working, for 15-plus years. It cemented the career that I have now. I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s given me so much. I think there are plenty of stories to tell in it.
The $ Billion dilemma
Paramount released three Trek films between 2009 and 2016, and struggled to find a way to move forward with the film franchise after Beyond underperformed the previous two films with a worldwide gross of $343 million. In that same year, a Marvel movie (Captain America: Civil War) made over $1.1 billion. Pine talked about how the Star Trek films have been held back by what he sees as unrealistic, Marvel-level aspirations:
It was always this billion-dollar mark because Marvel was making a billion. Billion, billion, billion. We struggled with it because Star Trek, for whatever reason, its core audience is rabid. Like rabid, as you know. To get these people that are interested that maybe are Star Wars fans or think Star Trek is not cool or whatever, proven to be … we’ve definitely done a good job of it but not the billion-dollar kind of job that they want.
I’ve always thought that Star Trek should operate in the zone that is smaller. You know, it’s not a Marvel appeal. It’s like, let’s make the movie for the people that love this group of people, that love this story, that love Star Trek. Let’s make it for them and then, if people want to come to the party, great. But make it for a price and make it, so that if it makes a half-billion dollars, that’s really good… So I mean, if I had my business suit on, that’s what I would do, but I don’t know where that is. That’s all above my pay grade.
In the last two decades, Paramount has only broken through $1 billion on two feature films (both Transformers movies), but other Transformers and Mission: Impossible films have performed well in the half-billion to billion range, and the studio is currently working on multiple films for both of those franchises. Paramount has held up Star Trek as its third tentpole franchise. Producer J.J. Abrams (who also produces the Mission: Impossible films for Paramount) has moved Star Trek close to the same zone, but Pine may be correct that the Star Trek franchise might not have the same level of global appeal.
A film that grosses $400 million, $500 million, or maybe $600 million (which would be just a bit more than the inflation-adjusted box office of Into Darkness), can certainly turn a profit if it can keep the budget under control. That would include actor compensation, and it was the studio’s request to cut Pine’s salary that stalled the previous attempt for a follow-up to Beyond in 2018. Hopefully, Pine, Paramount, and Abrams can find the right solution to make a Star Trek film with a big enough budget for popcorn movie excitement but not break the bank where anything short of $1 billion will be seen as a failure.
Keep up with all the news on Star Trek 4 and upcoming Trek films at TrekMovie.com.