"Star Trek Into Darkness" didn't connect with enough young moviegoers this weekend, and that's the biggest reason it didn't hit the $100 million heights that Paramount Pictures had hoped it would.
J.J. Abrams' space epic sequel took in $84 million over the five-day opening that began Wednesday with special Imax screenings. With the film's production budget at $190 million, producers Paramount, Skydance Productions and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions were looking for more. Its $70.5 million three-day total was less than the $75 million that "Star Trek" debuted to four years ago, and that film didn't have the benefit of 3D or Imax surcharges.
Only 25 percent of those who went to see "Into Darkness" were under 25 years of age. That's considerably less than the 35 percent that the previous film attracted, and it's far more older-skewing than the first-weekend audiences for Disney's "Iron Man 3," which was 45 percent under 25, 27 percent families and 21 percent teens.
"It didn't grab the attention of young moviegoers, and you're not going to get your movie over $100 million with just older folks," Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap. "It's tough to figure, because with Abrams doing it, it's really not your father's 'Star Trek.' But it needs to find that young audience in a hurry."
And there's the rub.
The young audience that "Star Trek" will try to connect with its second weekend is the same demographic that "The Hangover III," which Warner Bros. opens Thursday, is targeting. And it's the same one that Universal's "Fast & Furious 6," which opens Friday, is going after. Fox's animated family film "Epic" opens this weekend, too, and "Iron Man 3" isn't going anywhere.
"For 'Into Darkness,' this will be a make or break weekend," Bock said.
That's certainly true domestically. "Into Darkness" won't match the $255 million total run up by Abrams' 2009 reboot and it may struggle to hit $200 million, analysts say.
"I do think we're going to find that young crowd, mainly because it's such a good movie," Paramount's head of distribution Don Harris told TheWrap.
Critics like it (87 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences gave it an "A" CinemaScore.
"In the big picture, we're going to be fine," Harris said, "especially when you factor in overseas."
That's been the saving grace so far. Paramount's concerted effort to capture international audiences, something no "Trek" film has been able to do before, is paying off abroad, where it's already brought in $80 million.
Looking to the big picture, Imax receipts accounted for 16 percent of the weekend's haul, and "Into Darkness" will be playing in large-format 3D in those 336 theaters for the next four weeks.
Other factors may have hurt "Into Darkness." The decision to move up the opening day from Thursday to Friday may have created some confusion, and four years is a long time to wait for a sequel. But the competition proved tough, even though "Into Darkness" was the only wide opener. Both "Iron Man 3" and "The Great Gatsby" held well, with both dropping a little more than 50 percent from last weekend.
(Paramount can take some solace from the staying power of "Iron Man 3." It receives a 9 percent cut of the worldwide receipts from the film as part of a 2010 deal that gave Disney marketing and distribution rights to that film and "The Avengers.")
"It's going to be very hard for 'Star Trek,' or any movie to rebound this summer," BoxOffice.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino told TheWrap, "because every week is so competitive."
He thinks that's a problem, and that the studios and moviegoers would be better served by a more year-round approach to release scheduling.
"There's really no reason to open a big tent-pole movie like this between 'Iron Man 3' and 'Fast & Furious 6' and 'The Hangover'," said Contrino, who added, "but crazy and crowded is the nature of summer. And that's especially true this summer."