UPDATE: 'Star Trek' Beats Estimates, Drops Just 43%

Update Monday 5/18:  In a textbook example of why Saturday morning estimates are exactly just that, studios and box office trackers are now estimating Star Trek made $43 million at the North American box office over the weekend, just a 43% decline from its opening weekend, for a 10.5 day total of $147.5m. On Saturday morning, those estimates stood at $37.5m for a 52% decline.

While Paramount would have taken that lesser latter total gladly, the film's performance on Saturday apparently exceeded all estimates, resulting in the impressive increased totals. According to Variety.com, Star Trek was actually the nation's top-grossing film on Saturday, out-performing the weekend's #1 film - Ron Howard and Tom Hanks' Angels & Demons - $18.3m to $17.8m.

43% declines in 2nd weekends are nearly unheard of in the big, front-loaded "summer event" era. For comparison's sake, last summer's box office king The Dark Knight slipped a still-healthy 53% its second frame.

Word-of-mouth and positive reviews are driving the legs of the rebooted franchise, and according to boxofficeguru.com, if the film continues to track according to comparable first 10 day performances (last year's word-of-mouth darling Iron Man dropped 48% its second weekend and made 56% of its eventual total gross in its first 10.5 days), Star Trek could top $250 million domestically, well exceeding all original industry expectations and which would ultimately make it the highest earner in franchise history, even adjusted for inflation.

Overseas, where Star Trek has never been comparably popular to other tent-pole franchises, receipts declined 42% to $21m, for a total of $70. Paramount "insiders" tell Variety that the film needs to gross $100m in foreign markets (likely to cover the studio's aggressive foreign marketing), and it appears it will reach that mark.

In its third weekend, X-Men Origins: Wolverine declined a reasonable 44% for an estimated $14.8m, pushing its 17-day total to $151.1m. According to boxofficeguru, a final domestic tally of $180-190m seems likely.

UPDATE Saturday 5/16: Box office trackers are estimating Star Trek will gross $37.5 million at the North America box office during its second weekend of release, or just a 52% drop-off from its debut weekend.

This rates as extremely good news for Paramount and the legs of the franchise's reboot and makes it likely the film will eventually cross the $200 million mark, which adjusting box office receipts for inflation, would mark only the 3rd time (of 11 release) that barrier will be breached by a Star Trek film. If it can continue to show extended legs it could potentially challenge the totals of 1979's The Motion Picture (approximately $230-$240m adjusted) and 1986's The Voyage Home ($212-$217m adjusted), though with the latter being more likely.

For comparison's sake, last year's surprise summer buzz movie Iron Man lost just 48% of its business on its way to over $300m, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine dropped 69% just last weekend in its second frame.

Speaking of Wolverine, early estimates are coming in at $12-$14m for it's third weekend gross, either of which would be under 55%. With a cum of $146-$148m since its debut, it's becoming less and less likely the film will reach the $200m mark.

UPDATE Tuesday, 5/12: The good news continues for Paramount on the Star Trek front. The film's official 3 ½ day North American box office gross (including Thursday evening showings) is now $79.2m, $3m above Sunday's studio estimate and higher than most industry expectations.

As is the mantra for summer, tent-pole movies, its second weekend gross (where it will finish second to Ron Howard and Tom Hanks' Angels & Demons) will go a long way in telling the story of where Trek's final box office tally will end up. A fan-driven franchise like Star Trek could be extremely front-loaded, but the film is one of the better reviewed and received movies in recent history. The sub-50% drop-off of Paramount's own Iron Man last sumer is likely a long-shot, but the studio would probably be happy with any figure south of 60%.

Conversely, X-Men Origins: Wolverine's official gross was downgraded to $26.4m, or a steep 69% off its opening. 

Update Sunday, 5/10: Paramount is estimating that Star Trek will earn $76.5 million by the end of business Sunday, with final, official figures to be released Monday. If the estimates hold up, they will fall on the high end of industry expectations, and well within the studio's happy zone. Expect the official announcement of a sequel or two (the cast members are signed for 3 films) within days.

The figure includes $72.5 million from Friday (including Thursday midnight shows) and another $4m from the earlier Thursday evening screenings.

Even adjusted for inflation, the $76.5m represents the largest opening for a Star Trek film, but in today's front-loaded box office environment, J.J. Abram's reboot may struggle to match or top 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture (approximately $230-240m adjusted for inflation) and 1986's The Voyage Home (approximately $212-217m).

As mentioned in our previous update, however, Paramount likely hopes Star Trek will follow the same model as several recent franchises, from Batman to Bourne to Shrek and grow their fan-base on DVD, cable and television.

Next to keep an eye on will be Star Trek's overseas performance, as the franchise has never performed well (or at least comparably to other major franchises) in foreign markets. Paramount has mounted an aggressive worldwide marketing plan to expand awareness and anticipation around the world.

Estimates are coming in for X-Men Origins: Wolverine at around $27m, which would represent a somewhat worse-case-scenario drop-off of 68% and bring the film's total North America gross to $130m.

Update Saturday, 5/9: Although estimates are varying fairly significantly according to the source, Paramount's Star Trek seems on course to gross between $67 and $75m by the end of the weekend at the North American box offoce, a record for the franchise (even with prices adjusted for inflation). If the actual figure falls somewhere in-between, while it won't approach any overall box office records, it would represent a very solid if unspectacular opening for a film that is looking to help rebuild a multimedia franchise over the long haul.

The film is also likely poised to show some decent box office legs over the next few weeks, as positive critical reception and word-of-mouth are at levels the industry hasn't seen since last year's Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

While that former Marvel superhero movie is often being cited as a model Star Trek would be well served to emulate, in the long haul it's actually the latter DC franchise that Paramount would like to mirror the most.

In 2005 a public soured on the previous two Joel Schumacher directed Batman's treated Christopher Nolan's well received Batman Begins cautiously, with the movie earning just $205m over its box office run. But the critically-lauded film recovered a substantially larger audience on DVD, cable, and television in the three years between it and last year's sequel, and aided by the buzz-generating performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, Dark Knight exploded to $533m.

The weekend won't be as kind to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While estimates vary from anywhere between $26 and $31m, the film seems likely to lose upwards of 65% of its audience in its second weekend.

Update Friday 5/8: Paramount's Star Trek reboot opened to $7 million at the North American box office in Thursday evening showings that began at 7pm at most of its 3800+ venues, according to Variety.com.

Last weekend, Fox's X-Men Origins: Wolverine grossed just under $5 in showings that began at Friday midnight, on its way to an $85.1m opening weekend.

Star Trek's performance also outpaced last May's Iron Man, which took in over $4m in showings that began Thursday evening, and earned $102.1 million by the close of business Sunday.

Despite the parallels between Iron Man and Star Trek - with Trek even outpacing the Marvel property in some metrics like critical reception and ticket sales % on online sites like Fandango, Paramount and rival studios are still saying tracking suggests Star Trek will not approach Iron Man's weekend figures, or even Wolverine's, though the Hollywood trade reports a number of films have outperformed their tracking indicators in recent months.

We still want to know what your prediction for Star Trek's opening weekend box office tally. Click in the link to take part in our new poll, and look for updates on the film's performance throughout the weekend.

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