What disappointing Into Darkness box office means for Star Trek 3

Contributed by
Nov 12, 2013

The box-office results for Star Trek Into Darkness could have some ramifications for the Enterprise's next big-screen voyage.

According to The Hollywood Reporter (via Screencrush), Paramount Pictures is looking to cut the budget for the next Star Trek film down by around $20 million from the $190 million price tag for Star Trek Into Darkness.

Why? It's matter of number-crunching. While Star Trek Into Darkness was a relatively solid hit at the box office, it wasn't an all-out blockbuster. The movie made $462 million worldwide -- very good numbers for Trek, which hasn't always done that well outside the U.S. -- but did not scale the heights of $500 million or more reached by films like Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel.

What could really be keeping Paramount execs up at night, however, are the U.S. returns: The movie earned $228 million at home, nearly $30 million less than the $258 million haul from 2009's Star Trek. That's a direction that the studio does not like, especially with that gigantic budget.

So what are some possible solutions? For one thing, Paramount hopes to shoot Star Trek 3 in a more tax-friendly location. Both previous pictures were filmed in Los Angeles at the request of director J.J. Abrams, who won't be back for the next one. A studio source said, "We’re making [Star Trek 3for what it should have been shot for last time if we had made it outside of L.A., which we would have done except that [Abrams] didn’t want to."

The identity of the new director could also be a factor in this. The current favorite is Joe Cornish, who did a lot with a little on his debut indie feature, Attack the Block. And Star Trek 3 is not the only movie facing these pressures: according to the Reporter, Batman vs. Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and possible sequels to Pacific Rim and World War Z are all looking at budget cuts.

One last thing to consider: Would a smaller budget necessarily be a bad thing for Trek? After all, the original series was made for $186,000 per episode (in late-1960s dollars, to be fair) and produced some of the best sci-fi ever seen on TV. The first 10 movies never had whopping budgets either, and roughly half of those turned out just fine. Sometimes less is more.

Could a little belt-tightening help the makers of Star Trek 3 focus less on spectacle and more on a great story? 

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