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Movie projector: 'Star Trek' on track for $65 million to $75 million opening weekend

May 7, 2009 |  7:43 pm

"Star Trek" (90% from left) will squeeze out Yasmin Deliz in "Next Day Air" (10% on right)

No event movie this summer comes with more question marks attached than Paramount’s “Star Trek,” which starts playing tonight at 7 p.m. 
Will rave reviews motivate skeptical non-Trekkies to check it out opening weekend? Will women or teenagers go? Will hard-core fans love it enough to attend multiple times? Will this be the first “Star Trek” film to do significant business overseas?
Based on tracking, “Star Trek,” which cost about $140 million to produce, appears poised to gross between $65 million and $75 million.

Just a few days ago, executives with access to pre-release audience polling were expecting an opening closer to $60 million. But overwhelmingly positive reviews and online word of mouth have given it a boost, particularly with teenagers and women who previously seemed immune to a marketing onslaught that tried to position it as a general-interest action flick.
As a result, a debut close to “Wolverine’s” $85 million, while still unlikely, is now in the realm of possibility. (“Star Trek” is in 250 fewer theaters, but 138 of them are Imax, where tickets cost several dollars more, which should even the opportunity.) That would be a very impressive showing for a franchise reboot that many initially expected to perform similarly to “Batman Begins,” which opened at just $48.8 million.
But for the new film to truly warp into hit territory, it will have to seek out new ticket buyers in foreign countries. “Star Trek” movies have traditionally performed poorly overseas, with 1996’s “First Contact” currently holding the record at $58 million. 
Paramount has promoted the new film aggressively outside of the U.S. in anticipation of this weekend’s opening in 54 foreign markets (all the major ones except Mexico, India, Japan and China). If “Star Trek” grosses $40 million or more overseas, it could be well on the way to blockbuster status.
Almost as interesting will be whether Fox’s “Wolverine” manages to drop less than 60% from its strong opening. With largely negative word of mouth, some box-office watchers predict it might perform similarly to 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” which declined a huge 67% on its second weekend.
So far “Wolverine’s” weekday ticket sales, which have taken it to a total of $99.2 million, are lagging behind last year’s “Iron Man,” compared with their opening grosses on the same weekend.

The week’s only other wide launch is Summit Entertainment’s “Next Day Air,” which the independent studio picked up from Paramount. The low-budget action comedy is generating interest mainly from young African American and Latino males and is expected to gross in the mid-single digits.
In limited release, Los Angeles is getting a big helping of “Rudo Y Cursi,” which reunites “Y Tu Mama Tambien” stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna and is already a success in its native Mexico. Sony Pictures Classics is opening the tale of soccer-playing brothers at 67 theaters in the city, apparently targeting the sizable Chicano community here. It’s otherwise only playing at three locations in New York.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo credits: "Star Trek" by Industrial Light & Magic/AP; "Next Day Air" by Ho/AFP/Getty Images