By Gabe Toro | The Playlist May 19, 2013 at 12:43PM
Has anyone stopped to think that maybe the success of 2009's "Star Trek" was a fluke? Coming off the worst-performing entry of a ten film series ("Star Trek Nemesis" grossed $43 million in 2002), Paramount produced a big-budgeted sexy version of what was once considered a "nerdy property" and broke out with a $385 million worldwide gross. With "Star Trek Into Darkness," most were expecting audience goodwill and the addition of 3D would boost this picture into a four-day opening close to $100 million. That was assuming that most of the public was aware the studio made a last-minute decision to push the release from Friday to Thursday, and either the $81 million four-day take suggests they weren't, or that maybe we've overestimated the appeal of these films in the first place.
Granted, audiences still seem to like these films, and this one in particular: it received an 'A' Cinemascore rating, and generally positive reviews. Though we won't be judging this opening in terms of profitability as much as industry expectations, these results are somewhat weaker than the $75 million take by "Star Trek" four years ago. Ads for 'Into Darkness' didn't seem to up the ante from the last picture, keeping the plot vague. Worse yet, the advertising centered on its villain, and on that note they opted for JJ Abrams-sponsored secrecy. Except you can't be secretive about the film's major threat if he's also played by a nobody. And in spite of the many gif-happy fans the actor may have on Tumblr, Benedict Cumberbatch is very much a nobody to about 95% of the intended audience for the usual blockbuster.
For that matter, so is the bulk of this film's cast, in any other role. Chris Pine is the only actor in this cast that would be considered "bankable" and his greatest success was playing the co-lead in "Unstoppable," a programmer that played to middling results as a Denzel Washington picture. Pine's "This Means War" was also rejected, and "People Like Us" (from "Trek" co-scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) failed to move the needle at all. Supporting players like Simon Pegg and Karl Urban have also featured in their share of flops, while Zoe Saldana can't seem to gain any traction as a leading lady, judging by the roles she's taken in recent years. Eventually with the original "Trek," William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would become household names. Can't see the same situation outcome for Zachary Quinto, who doesn't seem interested in stardom anyway.
Of course, the big unanswered question is if studios can fully bank on films that underperform domestically but surge overseas compared to their predecessors. Recent installments of "Pirates Of The Caribbean" and "Spider-Man" added 3D and actually saw their domestic results diminish, but international receipts were stronger than ever. Disappointing sequel "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" almost doubled its domestic haul overseas, and the similarly-weak "A Good Day To Die Hard" nearly quadrupled it. We're cherry-picking -- "Iron Man 3" has already out-grossed the previous films in the series by a very wide margin stateside and abroad, for example. But a large focus was placed on "Star Trek" traditionally playing to crickets overseas, and for the last go-round, yielding only decent international numbers. "Into Darkness" has 3D and a much higher profile than the earlier film, so it will probably do the same business every 3D blockbuster seems to do internationally, with a basement expectation of $200-$300 million.
So, given this weaker opening for the $190 million-budgeted "Into Darkness," if the film doesn't have the legs of its predecessor, it's likely to finish around $200 million domestically, over $50 million less than the earlier effort, even with inflation and 3D. But if international numbers are even just okay, this will easily be a bigger worldwide hit than 2009's "Star Trek." All things considered, this “Trek” is opening not only after the gorilla-sized “Iron Man 3,” but also a spectacular $50 million opener in “The Great Gatsby.” With some audiences clutching their cash in preparation for Memorial Day’s massive “Fast And Furious 6”/”The Hangover Part III” showdown, it probably could have been worse
Not only did “Iron Man 3” successfully cross $1 billion earlier this week, it also surprisingly held strong against “Into Darkness,” with results suggesting this will be the first time Tony Stark coasts over $400 million domestic. “Iron Man 3” will likely finish its run as one of the ten highest-grossing films in history domestically, and if “The Avengers 2” performs up to expectations, then three of the ten biggest domestic (also worldwide?) films in history will feature Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. That creates, how do we say... bargaining power? Now the question remains, if “Iron Man 3” received a post-“Avengers” bump, and what this means for sequels “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”: can they improve on the two original films, neither of which crossed $500 million worldwide, and if so by how much?
Despite an apparently tough Cinemascore rating, the word-of-mouth on “The Great Gatsby” seems to be doing just fine, old sport. The 3D drama lost a little over half its audience as it represented adult counterprogramming to the PG-13 suck of superheroes and spaceships, and it should cross $100 million domestic by mid-week. Kudos to Hollywood, as we are three weeks into summer without a megabudget flop; things are usually more dire for someone at this point, and everyone expected “Gatsby” to be the weak sister in a crowded May. Nobody’s getting fired!
“Pain And Gain” and “42” both held steady in the top five, benefiting from blockbuster spillover. “42” is at the cusp of $90 million already, and some are wondering if Jackie Robinson can leg it out to $100 million. The Michael Bay drama/thriller/whatsit is likely going to start dropping screens soon, and it should find its proper home as a Redbox Memory. Everyone got to stretch out, now put Marky Mark and The Rock back in their respective franchise playsets.
“Oblivion” is about to get an overseas boost from a Japanese release, though by and large the story’s been told about this underperformer. With military precision, Tom Cruise has “All You Need Is Kill,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Mission: Impossible 5” ready to deploy next year, so if you don’t like his latest blockbuster (the second straight to crap out before reaching $100 million domestic) then maybe you’ll like his next one. Or his next one. Capsizing below the sci-fi thriller was “Tyler Perry Presents Peeples,” which just barely stayed ahead of “The Big Wedding” and “Mud,” both simply hanging around until DVD, though the low-budget “Mud,” to its credit, has been a solid arthouse performer for distributor Roadside Attractions.1. Star Trek: After Dark (Paramount) - $70.6 million ($81 mil.)
2. Maybe Now You'll Buy The Damn Iron Man Comics You Philistine (Disney) - $35.2 million ($337 mil.)
3. The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.) - $23.4 million ($90 mil.)
4. Pained And Drained (Paramount) - $3.1 million ($46 mil.)
5. 42 (Warner Bros.) - $2.8 million ($89 mil.)
6. The Croods (Fox) - $2.8 million ($176 mil.)
7. Oblivion (Universal) - $2.3 million ($86 mil.)
8. Mud (Roadside Attractions) - $2.2 million ($11 mil)
9. Tyler Perry Presents Steeples (Lionsgate) - $2.1 million ($7.8 mil.)
10. The Big-ish Wedding (Lionsgate) - $1.1 million ($20 mil.)