Star Trek Into Darkness had a bigger opening weekend than The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Twilight. But there's one film Into Darkness couldn't beat that stands out: its 2009 predecessor, which took in $75 million over its first Friday-Sunday frame versus the new film's $70 million.
Hollywood sequels are supposed to be bigger, in scope, in budget and, most of all, at the box office.
Here are three ways to explain what happened to Into Darkness:
1. It Lost Some of Its Payload on Lauch: Or, to put it another way, because the J.J. Abrams-directed adventure opened Thursday (with Wednesday night previews), instead of Friday, ticket sales were spread out over four days instead of three. It's a simple matter of math, and one that usually depresses opening weekends. The lowest-grossing Twilight sequel, for instance, Eclipse, was the only Twilight sequel that opened on a Wednesday instead of a Friday. On the other hand, some sequels just can't be stopped. Revenge of the Sith opened to a record $50 million on a Thursday, and then packed on another $100 million-plus over the three-day weekend. Into Darkness wasn't expected to be that big, but it was projected to hit nine figures by the end of Sunday. Instead, it stood at about $84 million (and with good reviews and an A Cinemascore grade, no less).
2. It Hit the Sci-Fi Ceiling: This was the theory of a box-office analyst after Into Darkness got off to a good, but not great $11.5 million start last Thursday. "Maybe it reached a max potential on the first [Abrams movie]," Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock said. Then again Avatar was a sci-fi movie, too, and it's the all-time box-office champ. At the same time, however, the James Cameron epic wasn't viewed through the same sci-fi geek lens as Star Trek, which brings us to…
3. It Hit the Star Trek Ceiling: "box office isn't shocking," tweeted Movie City News' David Poland. "it's just the new normal for Trek's dilithium ceiling. Why would a non-Trekkie go?" Sometimes, of course, Trek movies do breakout, such as the save-the-whales crowd-pleaser Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, or even Abrams' 2009 reboot, Star Trek, with its ramped-up action. And sometimes die-hard Trek fans are more than enough. (See: the original big-screen adventure, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, still the franchise's second-biggest domestic hit when all ticket prices are equal, per BoxOfficeMojo.com stats.) And then sometimes the Trek franchise goes on cruise control—in the 1980s and 1990s, five out of the nine Trek movies from the period grossed virtually the same amount.