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Star Trek Into Darkness opened Thursday, and there was hope that the film would smash past the $100 Million dollar mark over its four day opening. That it didn’t, that its three day number was less than the Friday through Sunday opening of the original, and that — if you factor in that the new film is in 3D and Imax and the first film was not — it sold less tickets in four days than the first film did in three, well, you’ve got a problem. Even if the numbers themselves are good.

Film Weekend Per Screen Total
1 Star Trek Into Darkness $70,555,000 $18,241 $84,091,000
2 Iron Man 3 $35,182,000 (-51.5) $8,304 $337,073,000
3 The Great Gatsby $23,415,000 (-53.2) $6,596 $90,159,000
4 Pain and Gain $3,100,000 (-38.0) $1,276 $46,574,000
5 The Croods $2,750,000 (-23.8)
$1,159 $176,750,000
6 42 $2,730,000 (-40.5) $1,147 $88,735,000
7 Oblivion $2,222,000 (-46.0) $1,070 $85,500,000
8 Mud $2,160,000 (-14.9) $2,250 $11,588,000
9 Peeples $2,150,000 (-53.4) $1,053 $7,858,000
10 The Big Wedding $1,100,000 (-55.8) $762 $20,198,000

The question that Paramount executives are asking themselves this weekend is this: “Did we give J.J. Abrams too much leeway? And did he F___ us over?” This is probably a difficult moment as Abrams was reluctant to make the Star Trek sequel, Paramount let him make Super 8 — which turned out to be a box office disappointment — and Abrams has already signed up to direct the next Star Wars. We may see a shift in marketing because of that, as Abrams hid from audiences the real identity of the villain, and as that could have been a selling point, it’s possible that Abrams playing the mystery box game with this film cost Paramount some money. It’s funny too because the movie got a soft pass from critics (with over 200 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s at 87% fresh), so it’s not that the minority of grumbling fanboys poisoned the well. Here then would be the bullet points for why this movie didn’t exceed the well-liked original:

  • It took too long: It’s been four years, which may not sound like a long time, but the first film opened the same summer as the first Hangover, which will complete its trilogy next week. There have also been three films starring Iron Man in the interim. Just saying.
  • They took the fanbase for granted and burned them: The Trek core audience more than likely found out the big spoilers ahead of time and were revolted. Abrams is very public about the fact that he didn’t like Trek to start with, and has moved on to Star Wars. Abrams doesn’t like Klingons, and doesn’t like them for any good reason. Basically, everyone involved did everything they could to piss off the hardcore.
  • They should have sold the villain: Benedict Cumberbatch is not a name player to anyone who doesn’t watch Sherlock. “Oh that guy who was in War Horse for ten minutes?” Unfortunately, Abrams built into the script that who he’s playing is a reveal so he could argue that holding it back would give the audience more pleasure. It seems to have backfired in this case.
  • Different competition: In 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the first film of the summer, which was heavily pirated before release and generally not very good.  The next week offered Star Trek, which benefited from this situation. In the interim, no one involved has really raised their profile in Hollywood. Zachary Quinto came out of the closet, but that didn’t seem to do much for or against his career. Pre-Star Trek he was that guy from Heroes. Now he’s on American Horror StoryChris Pine was in a couple of movies like Unstoppable and This Means War, and none of them were hits because of him, nor did he give great performances in either. Zoe Saldana did appear in Avatar, but as a giant blue cat. And — for the most part — the fanboy cast doesn’t like Abrams. They may like his movies, but the fact that he turned Star Trek into Star Wars, and is now leaving Star Trek for Star Wars doesn’t help his case. On top of which, his movies have no real personality. Though the lens flare talk is a bit much, it’s the most distinctive thing about his filmmaking, other than “Energy!”

You might say “Still, it made over $80 Million” but next week offers Fast and Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III, which are two films that are targeting this movie’s core demographic. Which means even with another four day weekend ahead the movie should fall 50%, and possibly more. It could do less than $30 Million for the three day, which means it may not make it to $200 Million, and may struggle to do much more than $150 Million. That’s a disaster. They were hoping this sequel would have more international appeal, but if foreign isn’t strong, this isn’t just a disappointment, it could very well be a money loser (though home video sales should be strong for the collectors who have to have all Star Trek). Numbers look big until you enter in the budget (listed at $190 Million) and advertising (possibly $100 Million, maybe more or less). Will this make $600 Million worldwide? Survey says no.

Trek out of the way, both Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby are big winners. IM3 crossed the billion dollar mark, and hasn’t slowed down. It may just get to $400 Million domestic, but it’s already in profit. And Gatsby looked like a picture that could do way less than a hundred million domestic, which it’s going to easily surpass. Getting to $130-$150 Million is a huge deal for the film.

Reality Check: I thought STID was going to do more business, which may be why I lowballed IM3. But I wasn’t sold on Darkness breaking the hundred dollar mark, and so I guessed low, but I didn’t go low enough.

What did you watch this weekend?