Star Trek Beyond fell out of the top 10 at the domestic box office this weekend, doing so two weeks faster than Into Darkness and three weeks faster than Star Trek. I previously declared Beyond was pretty much toast until it’s early September release in China, and that there really was no need to pay close attention to the box office until then. However, with the film now out of the top 10 I thought now would be a good time for an update:
STAR TREK BEYOND WORLDWIDE AS OF 8/22/16 – AFTER 5 WEEKENDS OF RELEASE
Turns out, setting a franchise low for opening weekend, and then following that up with franchise highs for second and third weekend declines is not a good combination. That’s essentially what Beyond did, though, trailing Star Trek and Into Darkness in all of the good box office categories and leading them in the bad ones. That’s how it is that after 31 days in theaters Beyond is more than $60m off the pace of Into Darkness and $75m behind Star Trek. Both of those movies eventually topped out in the $228m-$257m range. It’s entirely possible Beyond will barely make it to $160m. Ouch.
You can see in the chart below that after its second weekend Beyond has been declining roughly on par with Into Darkness, a couple of percentage points behind one weekend, nearly identical another weekend. However, when what you are declining from is a $70m opening for Into Darkness versus $59m for Beyond the gap grows wider pretty quickly. Also remember the 2009 Star Trek was declining from a $75m debut.
The bigger question here is why exactly this has happened, and the answers are still the same as they were when I wrote about them in more detail after Beyond‘s lackluster opening, chiefly that this has been a terrible summer for live-action sequels/reboots/revivals, hardcore fans are punishing Beyond for Into Darkness, Paramount’s marketing had the feel of a studio doing its best to cover for a rushed, troubled production and the publicity campaign was so late-arriving that it failed to build up pre-release awareness. Plus, they were dealing with a product which offered few obvious marketing hooks to play off of other than the destruction of the Enterprise, and newer fans might have been turned off by how this new film appeared to completely ignore Into Darkness.
Oh, also, freakin’ Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad came along and kicked Star Trek‘s ass in weeks 2 and 3.
And while Beyond has been clobbered by the competition at home Paramount has held the film back in several major international territories. This past week alone, it debuted in South Korea, France and Spain, and in the coming weeks it will finally hit Brazil, Japan and Mexico. According to the MPAA, those are all top 15 markets for film. However, they each contributed less than $10m to the international totals for both Into Darkness and Star Trek, except for South Korea where Into Darkness grossed $11.4m. As before, the real hopes lies in China where Into Darkness made 6 times Star Trek‘s Middle Kindgom total and thus led Paramount to partner with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on Beyond.
China is still several weeks down the road, though, and the weekend totals for South Korea, France and Spain have yet to come in. For now, Beyond is stuck at under $90m in foreign gross, and after five weekends it is trailing well behind Into Darkness‘ pace in the five biggest international territories it’s playing in.
Remember, of course, Into Darkness’s international total ($238m) was a vast improvement over Star Trek‘s, which never quite caught on overseas (just $127m) the way it did at home ($258m). As such, you’ll see that Beyond is actually beating Star Trek in several countries, but that’s not really as impressive as it might seem since Star Trek was an astonishingly weak international performer.
According to the MPAA, the UK, Germany, Australia, Russia and Italy rank as the second, seventh, eighth, tenth and eleventh biggest international box office markets. So doing poorly in Italy doesn’t mean nearly as much to the bottom line as doing poorly in the UK.
Beyond‘s break-even target is thought to be near $400m worldwide, but it is going to need seriously peak performances in every remaining major market, especially China, to get there.
Small problem: China’s 5 year orgy of neverending box office growth has finally hit a wall. The country is currently mired in a box office slump which has everyone in Hollywood alarmed.
A couple of days ago a reader of one of my prior Star Trek Beyond box office articles asked, “Why isn’t the fact [Beyond] 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?”
It’s a fair question, albeit one which possibly misunderstands just how much the home video market has shrunk in recent years (read this MarketWatch report for a fuller explanation of why movies are more and more dependent on box office revenue). However, it also gets at everything we’re probably never going to actually know for sure about Beyond or any other movie for that matter. As Stephen Galloway of The Hollywood Reporter explained earlier today:
As any studio chief can tell you, it’s profitability that counts. But it’s almost impossible to assess. Few studios ever give an accurate account of the negative cost of their films — that is, how much they cost to make, before prints and advertising are added to the mix. On the rare occasions they do, they stay mum about their marketing outlay.
Their lips are also tightly sealed when it comes to non-theatrical revenue — income that eclipses earnings from theaters, including home entertainment, network and cable TV, along with a host of other ancillary markets.
Without these numbers, nobody can know whether a movie is in the black or how profitable it truly is. Box office numbers may not be lies, but they obfuscate and distort the truth.
The true story on Beyond‘s financials are and will continue to only be known by Paramount, SkyDance, Bad Robot, Alibaba and the various moneymen and studio accountants behind the scenes. However, we can all look at the box office and do the simple math which tells us a movie which reportedly cost $185m to make shouldn’t be falling so far behind its franchise predecessors in just about every major market around the world.
It’s such a shame too because, Beasties Boy song and all, Beyond is one of the more competently made blockbusters of the summer. In my experience, it actually benefits from repeat viewing, but if you go by the box office it would seem as if very few are going back a second time, if indeed they ever went at all.