Everyone seems to like Star Trek. Many people will see it this weekend. But how will it all add up at the box office? Currently running a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, the time-traveling origin story juxtaposes car chases in vintage roadsters in Iowa with galactic attempts to wrench ships out of black holes ("More warp!" There is no more warp! More warp!!!"). It's great fun, and includes J.J. Abrams' signature time-bending, a space vocabulary that heavily references Star Wars (When will they put up safety rails next to deep abysses in spaceships?), and a plotline accessible to those who have never even heard of the Enterprise fan club. In other words, Trek has all the makings of a summer popcorn movie.
Currently, the film's tracking way up, as the marketing blitz continues to raise awareness of the film. There are conflicting reports about whether Star Trek or Wolverine has better female support, which surprised me, given that for me it was pretty clear-cut. My interest in Wolverine hovered around zero, while I was enticed from day one by the Star Trek trailer that included the aforementioned Iowa car chase scene and promised me there wouldn't be hard-to-decipher techno-conversations on the flight deck.
Last week, headlines for Wolverine gave the film a range of $60-$100 million, and it came in at $75 million. This week, estimates for Trek seem to be in the $65-$100 million range, but the studio's low-balling, saying they would be happy with $50 million. In Trek's favor are 7pm screenings tonight which should jump-start its grosses, as well as data from Movietickets.com that shows that sellouts have already exceeded those of Wolverine. The space actioner will also be showing up on bigger IMAX screens, which carry a ticket premium and could push grosses higher.
Internationally, the film will open everywhere but Japan and Mexico, where the swine flu has made public gatherings impossible. Based on previous performances in the franchises, X-Men's Wolverine claws are supposed to read better than the Spock/Kirk interactions of Star Trek, but since the reboot is all about drawing in new, younger viewers, there's a chance the film can create new audiences. The fact that Trek avoids using its plot as a Cold War parable will undoubtedly make the film more universally appealing.
Among, say, your typical young male fan who missed Wolverine last week because of a soccer game, there will definitely be competition for the box-office dollar, and last week's $75 million open still leaves many viewers choosing between the two films, or opting to take a week off from moviegoing. From my standpoint, that hard-to-quantify buzz has always been higher for Star Trek, but, then again, I'm not hanging out in middle and high school hallways.