Box Office

Box Office: Star Trek Beyond is Pretty Much Toast Until China

UPDATED 8-22-16: For a follow-up article, here for Star Trek Beyond‘s Week 5 numbers.

In the days leading up to the release of Star Trek Beyond, Paramount announced a sequel was already in development, and I wrote an article asking exactly how much Beyond would need to gross to actually turn that promised sequel into a reality. After all, announcing a sequel in the days before a new movie comes out is usually just theater attendance-boosting showmanship, easily walked back if the audience doesn’t actually show up in sufficient numbers. Many a sequel script has been started and then never finished or at least finished but never filmed in situations like this. So, for Star Trek 4 to avoid that fate and instead turn into an actual slamdunk we-made-enough-profit-to-justify-another-movie decision Beyond probably needs to hit somewhere in the $400m-$450m range worldwide. That is, of course, unless Paramount is willing to make another Star Trek despite taking a loss on its most recent one.

Well, it’s three weeks later. Where do we stand on those chances for Star Trek 4 now?

Short answer: Um, ask again in a month.

Long answer: It’s not looking too hot right now, and that’s mostly because Beyond has been wiped out by Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad domestically and hasn’t hit several key foreign markets yet.


Star Trek Beyond Week 3DOMESTIC

Star Trek Beyond Trailer 2 Chair
Will we get to see Jaylah post-Starfleet training? Might she someday get her own captain’s chair?

At the box office, it’s been a real shitshow all summer for live-action blockbusters, with the industry facing a  rather stark and very concerning audience erosion, particularly as it relates to sequels/reboots/revivals. July, in particular, saw disappointing returns for Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters and Beyond. Jason Bourne isn’t quite performing up to franchise standards, but Universal kept the budget low enough ($120m) for a so-so performance to be considered a win. Paramount and its $185m budget for Beyond clearly didn’t get the memo.

As such, Beyond‘s domestic performance ($128m after 3 weekends off of a $59m opening) is pretty much par for the course this summer, where all of the box office results would maybe look just a little better if the involved films hadn’t cost so dang much to make. But the most startling development is the way Beyond is tanking in comparison to the prior J.J. Abrams Star Trek films, with Abrams still attached to Beyond as a producer despite yielding the director’s chair to Justin Lin.  Star Trek and Into Darkness each posted $200m+ domestic totals in the end, and were in the $180m area after 3 weekends. Star Trek did that through especially fantastic word of mouth. Beyond...well, not so much.


2nd Weekend Decline

3rd Weekend Decline

4th Weekend Decline





Into Darkness




Star Trek




You might be looking at that and thinking, “But I saw Beyond. It’s really pretty good despite its weak villain. It’s at least one of the more competent blockbusters this summer. What gives?” Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad, that’s what. Welcome to the new normal. Bourne ate away Beyond‘s second-week audience, and then Suicide Squad did the same to Bourne. That’s a level of direct competition neither Into Darkness nor Star Trek had to contend with. As Forbes argued, this might just be the new normal:

But we’ve now seen three straight weekends where a big movie snagged a peak potential opening and got hammered the next weekend due to another giant tentpole opening in the fray. This may be the future of the industry if Hollywood insists on drowning us in would-be franchise tentpoles.

This might also be a reflection of these Abrams movies gradually losing an audience, with Star Trek being the peak ($257m domestic), Into Darkness ($228m) the downslide and Beyond the bottom. Of course, while Into Darkness ultimately came up short of Star Trek‘s domestic total it made up for it with a big international showing which helped it take the title of biggest worldwide hit ($467m) in Star Trek history. So, how’s Beyond doing in that department?


star-trek-beyond-poster2Pretty much the same story as domestic. Here’s a breakdown of Beyond’s performance after 3 weekends in the 6 biggest markets for film it is currently playing in compared to the prior Abrams films’ 3 weekend-totals in the same territories:

Film UK Germany Australia Russia Italy Neth.
Beyond $16.9m $9m $6.3m $6m $2.3m $1.4m
Into Darkness $29.6m $12.5m $12.8m $10.2m $2.7m $1.5m
Star Trek $24.5m $7.4m $9.1m $3.9m $2.7m $1.1m

Two Notes: “Neth.” is short for Netherlands, and Germany’s totals are only through week 2 because week 3 estimates weren’t available at the time I put this together

With all due respect to Italy and Netherlands, the 11th and 15th biggest international film markets in the world, Paramount probably isn’t exactly ecstatic that Beyond is at least keeping up with Into Darkness and Star Trek in those territories. Instead, they have to be disappointed with the way Beyond is lagging considerably behind Into Darkness‘ pace in the UK, Germany, Australia and Russia.

This is what Beyond is projected to finish with in those territories compared to Into Darkness and Star Trek‘s actual totals:

Film UK Germany Australia Russia Italy Neth.
Beyond $24.7m $15.03m $7.8m $6.09m $2.4m $1.7m
Into Darkness $39.3m $20.6m $15.9m $10.5m $2.9m $1.9m
Star Trek $35.3m $12.7m $12.6m $4.1m $3.1m $1.5m

A Couple Notes: Remember these are just the projected final totals for Beyond based on its performance through 3 weekends. Also remember that the ’09 Star Trek was not actually a big international hit, finishing with just $127m in foreign box office. Lastly, I couldn’t fit it on the chart, but if you’re curious Beyond‘s projected domestic total right now is a mere $146m, that is if it keeps falling the way it has thus far.

The story, as per usual, now turns to China. Beyond has openings over the next couple of weeks in France, South Korea, Spain, Brazil and Mexico, all of them top 15 markets for film. However, both Into Darkness and Star Trek made less than $10m in each of those countries, except for South Korea where Into Darkness grossed $11.4m. The real boost for Into Darkness, though, came from China, where it scored $56m compared to Star Trek‘s meager $8m. As such, Paramount partnered with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on Beyond, and secured a fantastic release date (9/2) up against no competition from another Hollywood title.

Furthermore, as per Variety, “Alibaba will help cover the merchandising and promotional costs, and is also serving as a brand ambassador of sorts to the Middle Kingdom. The association worked well for Paramount in the case Rogue Nation, which grossed $135.7 million in China, an impressive 25% jump on the previous film in the franchise.”

Based on what Beyond is doing in the rest of the world, it’s going to need a boost just like that. After China, there’s just Japan (10/21), and then Paramount will be left figuring out their next move. As Forbes said, “Paramount need to come to a place where a $150m domestic/$300m worldwide total for a Star Trek movie is considered a win” because that’s roughly where Beyond seems to be heading unless it’s saved by China.

In this, the 50 year anniversary of the franchise, it is worth pausing to point out that if you just go by box office receipts alone several of the prior Star Trek movies would look like money losers, specifically Nemesis, Insurrection and The Final Frontier, and two of those three still earned sequels. Plus, there’s no telling what kind of shot in the arm the franchise will receive from the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery TV series, which will be unrelated to the current films and managed by a different company (CBS instead of Paramount, although they are oddly both owned by Viacom) but is still Star Trek. Having an actual new Trek TV show up and running, available through Netflix pretty much everywhere in the world but the US, could at least keep the franchise in the public consciousness and embolden Paramount to crank out one more film, probably again co-financed with Alibaba. Or it could backfire and cause audiences to prefer to see a Star Trek: Discovery movie instead of Kirk and crew yet again.

Oh, such potential drama:

o-STAR-TREK-THE-NEXT-GENERATION-BLOOPER-REEL-facebookSources: Forbes, BoxOfficeMojo


  1. It’s not even out yet in all countries though. What’s up with that. In some – Western European – countries it’s coming out a month (!) later than the premiere. Which is weird because I can’t remember the last time a big movie didn’t came out worldwide (here).

  2. I’m the jinx….it seems whatever I like…film or tv show…gets canceled….been a star trek fan 50 years….watched the original…then reruns…then star trek n.g….all the class is trek movies…n.g. movies….went to fan/cons….didn’t like ds9 or voyager …..Ive been to the movies twice since December. ..Star Wars and Beyond….liked them both…..I also liked the”Revolution” series…canceled…what gets me is the crap that comes back season after season…so I hope there’s a #4 star trek…if not I’ll watch my dvds for my star trek fix

  3. It would be easier to muster faith in your analysis if you had done enough research to know that CBS is in fact NOT owned by Viacom.

    1. Are you talking about the 2015 split which officially made CBS Corporation and Viacom their own entities again with Les Moonves in charge of CBS and Summer Redstone in charge of Viacom? Honestly, everything that has happened with Viacom over the past couple of years has made things a bit difficult to keep track of everything. Last I heard, Summer’s daughter was staging a hostile takeover of Viacom, and a judge is forcing Summer to be questioned as to his actual competence to continue running the company. Most of the Viacom board seemed like they wanted to sell Paramount to a Chinese company, but Summer and his daughter don’t want that and put through motions to prevent that from happening. I guess along the way I still thought Viacom maintained some ownership stake in CBS even if they were now being traded as separate entities on the stock market.

    1. I know. I talked about Into Darkness’ box office in more complete terms in a prior article. In general with film finance, what we know or at least trust to be true are the widely reported box office numbers. What we rarely ever are the film’s full financials (e.g., P&A, distribution fee, talent participation, home video, cable, streaming, etc.) which really determine profitability. Sometimes even the reported production budget is total bullshit. So, we’re all going off of imperfect information, and trusting the rule-of-thumb about a film doubling its production budget worldwide being the break-even point, even though the studios’ percentage cut of ticket sales varies around the world. But if you just go by that rule of thumb it was obvious Into Darkness seemed like a tweener hit in terms of profitability. As such, I am still stunned Paramount didn’t slash the budget for the sequel by, I dunno, let’s say 15% to re-adjust the franchise’s financial profile. However, they clearly viewed Into Darkness’ record-high worldwide box office as a sign that they were on the verge of finally turning Star Trek into a genuine blockbuster film franchise. That’s why you hire someone like Justin Lin, who helped push Fast & Furious over the hump.

      Obviously, it didn’t work out, even though Beyond turned into a pretty decent film, especially compared to the rest of the competition this summer. As for what this means for that promised Star Trek 4, I agree that if you just go by the numbers Paramount’s decision would seem to be easy. However, as I argued in an earlier article about Beyond’s box office what else does Paramount really have at the moment other than Transformers and Mission Impossible? Plus, they are a studio caught in the middle of the Viacom soap opera, and if Summer Redstone and his daughter lose out the rest of the Viacom board seems to want to sell Paramount, with a Chinese company being the likely buyer. If so, they need to maintain and strengthen their brand, and to me a Paramount with an ongoing Star Trek film franchise is a more enticing entity than one which just put the franchise on ice.

  4. Why isn’t the fact it will shift a stack of DVDs Blu Ray and downloads, not to mention be on tv for the next 2 decades being taken into account. Also don’t forget product placement, you really think Chekov was a whiskey drinker?

  5. You bring up previous movies that lost money and still got sequels, but there’s a difference. They cost a lot less, so they lost a lot less. When you start getting into serious money (9 figures vs. low 8 figures) in the red, that’s when execs start getting out the buckshot to put the franchise out of their misery.

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