‘Star Trek’ Blasts Off, ‘Wolverine’ Implodes

Star Trek was given a very warm reception in its nationwide launch. Since its Thursday night debut, the sci-fi reboot collected a galactic $79.2 million ($75.2 million Friday-Sunday) from 3,849 theaters. This is easily the largest start ever for the long running franchise, more than doubling the previous benchmark set by Star Trek: First Contact.

Instead of continuing with sequels, Paramount made a wise move by deciding to reboot the series. The franchise lost most of its popularity and cultural relevancy after Star Trek: Nemesis bombed with both audiences and critics seven years ago so the only real solution was to go back to the basics. It’s a strategy that has paid dividends to two other franchises, James Bond and Batman. Both of those franchises were recovering from audience and critical backlash before the studios decided to, in essence, start over. Batman and Robin is one of the most infamous bombs of all time, but Batman Begins rejuvenated the franchise, and its sequel,The Dark Knight , is the highest grossing film of the decade. Casino Royale, the Bond franchise reboot, was also a big success.

Star Trek broke a few records as well. It’s, by far, the largest opening ever for the second weekend of May. The industry typically avoids releasing high profile tentpole films on this weekend to give the other early summer films some breathing room. The conventional approach that Hollywood has taken in the past is to release a tentpole on the first weekend of May and then relatively inexpensive counter-programming on the second weekend of the month. Then, on the third weekend, another high profile tentpole is released because by that time the early May blockbuster has exhausted through most of its audience. 2007 is a classic example of this:

1st weekend of May 2007:
Spider-Man 3 (tentpole)

2nd weekend:
28 Weeks Later (counter-programming)
Georgia Rule (counter-programming)

3rd weekend:
Shrek the Third (tentpole)

The few times that Hollywood has broken this rule generally results in a dud as evidenced by 2000’s Battlefield Earth, 2006’s Poseidon, and last year’s Speed Racer. Judging by this history, it would seem as though Paramount took a huge gamble releasing Star Trek on this weekend. It turned out to be a smart move, though, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine evaporating quickly, and next week’s Angels and Demons will not be as potent as it’s predecessor.

The sci-fi epic broke also broke the record for the widest and highest grossing IMAX release in history. Its $8.5 million launch from 138 screens was enough to soar above The Dark Knight.

Star Trek should continue to live long and prosper in the weeks ahead thanks to stellar word-of-mouth and critical response. This is evidenced by its performance as the weekend progressed. Saturday’s take of $27.2 million was 1% higher than Friday’s $26.9 million, an impressive feat for a fanboy driven feature. Sunday was also strong with its $21.1 million tally, which was down only 23% from Saturday despite the male-skewing film going up against Mother’s Day.

Meanwhile, X-Men Origins: Wolverine took a hit from Captain Kirk and his crew with a 69% tumble for a $26.4 million second weekend. That’s the largest sophomore decline ever for the comic book franchise, but its $129 million 10 day figure is still strong considering most of the characters from the previous films are absent. This also allowed 20th Century Fox to produce the film for a much lower cost than X-Men: The Last Stand. Wolverine should finish with a solid $170 million, strong enough to ensure further spin-offs.

Taking advantage of Mother’s Day, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, dipped only 33% with $10.3 million raising the tally to $30.1 million. With little in the way of direct competition in the weeks ahead, the Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy should display some decent staying power.

Obsessed continues to perform strongly. Down 46% in its third weekend, the Fatal Attraction rip-off made $6.6 million and upped its total to an excellent $56.2 million. 17 Again, spent another weekend in the top five, with $4.2 million in its fourth frame. The Big-like comedy has collected $54 million.

Next Day Air failed to take off in its maiden voyage with a quiet sixth place launch. Opening in only 1,138 theaters, the Summit Entertainment comedy could muster only $4.1 million. Nevertheless, this was on the higher end of industry expectations.

In seventh, Paramount’s drama, The Soloist, held well with a 30% decline, but its $23.8 million total is far from impressive given its pedigree and budget. On the other hand, the distributor continued to see Monsters Vs. Aliens generating solid grosses. After seven weeks the 3-D animated film is still in eighth place and has rang up $186.8 million in ticket sales. A $200 million final total is not out of the question.

Earth became the highest grossing documentary since 2005’s March of the Penguins with its $2.7 million weekend tally, down only 39% in its third weekend. The total for Disney‘s nature film stands at $26.3 million. Rounding out the top ten is another Disney feature, Hannah Montana: The Movie with $2.2 million and an impressive $73.9 million.

In 11th, Fighting bagged $2 million, and it should finish with a nearly identical total to Never Back Down. In the number twelve spot, State of Play continued its steep decline considering its target audience and has only generated $34 million in 17 days. The Russell Crowe film joins the growing list of adult thrillers that have disappointed at the box office this year.

Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo