I feel like a hypocrite. All summer, I’ve been berating Hollywood for its seemingly unyielding parade of prequels, sequels, reboots, and adaptations. “WHERE IS THE ORIGINALITY???” has been my implicit rallying cry to this point. And yet… a new “Star Trek” movie is here, the 13th in the series, and I’m totally okay with that. But there were “Star Trek” movies and TV shows before this sequel craze, and there will be “Star Trek” movies and TV shows after it. Like James Bond or Godzilla or “Star Wars” or “Batman,” somehow these series are an ever-changing well from which decades of creative minds can draw. Granted, some series entries are just as creatively bankrupt as this recent rash of unoriginal content. But some are “Star Trek: First Contact” or “Casino Royale.” The first JJ Abrams-helmed “Trek” reboot in 2009 was a big, exciting smash, and one of the smartest reboots I’ve seen — it employed the “Trek” universe’s science fiction cache to create new adventures for classic characters, suggesting that theirs was an alternate universe that could be explored by the original Leonard Nimoy Spock. Thus, their journeys, though familiar, had not been written yet, but also did not invalidate what transpired across the seven movies and five TV series (after “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: The Animated Series,” original cast members appeared in each of the subsequent spin-off shows) featuring the original “Star Trek” cast. On the flip side of that, Fox’s fifth (FIFTH!) “Ice Age” movie, “Ice Age: Collision Course,” vies for the box office apex, in an effort to extend the animation domination to an annoying sixth consecutive week.
Weekend: July 22nd-24th, 2016
Big New Releases:
“Ice Age: Collision Course,” “Star Trek Beyond,” “Lights Out,” “Hillary’s America” (wide release)
Big Holdovers: “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Legend of Tarzan,” “Finding Dory,” “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”
1. “Star Trek Beyond” (PG-13, 3,928 theaters) – $85 million first weekend, $250 million final
Anton Yelchin’s final go-round promises to be a bittersweet success. The young actor’s untimely death earlier this summer has stoked extra interest in the third “Trek” reboot. This time around, JJ Abrams gave the directing reigns to Justin Lin (who directed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth “The Fast and the Furious” movies). Abrams opted instead to revamp “Star Wars,” while still taking a producer credit and a big fat check for the first beloved space franchise he helped revive.
The fact that Paramount took a whopping three-year break between series entries has also fueled the fires of fan affection, and I have a sneaking suspicion that “Beyond” is set to boast the biggest opening weekend yet. That record is currently held by the first JJ Abrams “Star Trek” flick. That movie opened to a $75.2 million weekend haul in 2009, finishing with a $257.7 million domestic sum, for a cumulative $385.7 million worldwide gross. “Star Trek Into Darkness,” JJ Abrams’s first awful attempt to skip steps with a beloved property and just remake a prior series entry (but not the last), actually did less business stateside, opening to $70.2 million and finishing with $228.8 million here. It fared better worldwide, finishing with $467.4 million. Even in adjusted dollars, the Abrams “Star Trek” brought more asses to the domestic seats than any prior entry. Adjusted, it’s made $299.2 million in 2016 money. The closest competition is the 1979 “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” which would made $283.8 million in today’s dollars. The market is ripe for the $185 million-budgeted “Star Trek Beyond” to open bigger than either Abrams movie, somewhere in the $85-90 million range and possibly to even finish better than the 2009 movie’s unadjusted take.
2. “Ice Age: Collision Course” (PG, 3,992 theaters) – $60 million first weekend, $200 million final
We can only hope that audience fatigue will set in, as yet another animated sequel looks to make it a dog fight for the top spot at the weekend box office. Given the (relative) family-friendliness of “Star Trek” movies past, and the fact that families have already flocked to two massive animated movies this summer in “Finding Dory” and “The Secret Life of Pets,” the Dennis Leary-Ray Romano prehistoric kiddie pic — nobody’s favorite animated franchise — boasts a $105 million price tag and should still obliterate its cost at the stateside box office in its first two weeks, even with an opening that will be a bit of a letdown in light of the $104.4 million opening of “The Secret Life of Pets” and the $135.1 million opening of “Finding Dory.” It’s still almost certainly going to cross $200 million stateside, given what we’ve seen from this year’s other big animated hits — a domestic mark that would be the highest for any “Ice Age” franchise entry. “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” the fourth “Ice Age” movie, opened to a $46.6 million weekend take in 2012, and wrapped up with $161.3 million (but an insane $877.2 million worldwide, which is really why Fox green-lit this latest sequel). Its predecessor “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” lured in $41.7 million in its 2009 opening weekend, finishing with $196.6 million stateside and $886.7 million worldwide. “Collison Course” would love to be on a… collision course with the magical $1 billion mark, and it’s already made $134.9 million internationally (where it opened earlier this month). Look for it to have an underwhelming opening in the context of the animated flicks that have been ruling the roost for the last five weeks here, but to still far outpace any other opening weekend in the franchise’s history. I’m calling it at $60 million.
3. “The Secret Life of Pets” (PG, 4,048 theaters) – $28 million (-45%) third weekend, $315 million final
Universal’s summer smash has amassed $231.4 million in two weeks, with at least another $80 million to come, at least in this prognosticator’s estimation. Again, great marketing and a competent product have yielded spectacular results, proof that families are still a great resource for studio shareholders as they program their summer output. It’s going to be a neck-and-neck race between “Pets” and the two movies I have pegged to finish behind it in the 3-5 spots, so that’s really the exciting race to watch this weekend.
4. “Lights Out” (PG-13, 2,818 theaters) – $26 million first weekend, $60 million final
This weekend, New Line unleashes the $4.9 million-budgeted PG-13 horror flick “Lights Out,” boasting a concept so simple (ghosts appear when the lights go out) that it’s all right there in the name. “Lights Out” looks to fill the horror movie slot vacated in the top five following the quick descents of “The Conjuring 2” and “The Purge: Election Year.” It should follow their general business model, though, opening strong off an effective marketing campaign before sinking like a stone in the weeks ahead. Without a known brand or any big stars (sorry, Maria Bello), it doesn’t have the draw of the “Conjuring” and “Purge” flicks. “Lights Out” is also opening in significantly fewer theaters than “The Conjuring,” although its theater count is right in line with “Election Year” a few weeks ago (which unspooled on 2,796 theaters). I think it’s going to open somewhere between the $31.5 million of “Election Year” and the $16.8 million opening of “The Shallows.” I’m going to peg it at a $26 million opening take, and it will take a small bite out of “Ghostbusters” in terms of the young female demographic.
5. “Ghostbusters” (PG-13, 3,963 theaters) – $24 million (-48%) second weekend, $130 million final
After a disappointing first weekend, look for “Ghostbusters” to post an okay drop this weekend. As a reboot, a hold around 50% is totally respectable. Since audience interest has been generally positive (CinemaScore exit polling averaged out a to B+ audience rating), it’s not going to tumble the way “Batman v Superman” or, you know, “The Purge: Election Year” did, in the 70% category which I might have been expecting before it opened to positive critical and audience notices last week. But the bigwigs looking at Sony’s bottom line this summer have to be disappointed. It could finish as high as 3rd place with a 45% drop, and as low as 5th place with something closer to $20 million than $24 million. But I think it really is going to hold up okay, and hit that $24 million number. PLACE YOUR BETS.