WINNER OF THE WEEK: Star Trek Into Darkness. J.J. Abrams and his cast of Star Trek Muppet Babies pretty much had the film galaxy all to themselves this weekend. With no other movie debuting in wide release, Abrams’ second Trek adventure easily won the weekend with an estimated $70.6 million take from Friday to Sunday. Add in the screenings on Wednesday at midnight and all day Thursday, and the space sequel has a total take so far of $84.1 million.
That would all be terrific news if Paramount hadn’t been counting on a $100 million weekend. Indeed, the film debuted slightly lower than 2009’s Star Trek ($75.2 million from Friday to Sunday, plus another $4.0 million from Thursday screenings). And that film didn’t benefit from 3D surcharges, as Into Darkness did.
It’s hard to say why this Trek installment didn’t do better. After all, it not only had 3D fees going for it; it also had generally positive reviews and rapturous word-of-mouth (an A from CinemaScore). Maybe the marketing wasn’t as ubiquitous as it could have been; a merchandising dispute between Abrams and Trek character rights-holder CBS kept licensed products off retailers’ shelves. Or maybe it’s just that, after 47 years, Trek still has yet to prove its allure to the audience beyond the loyal fanboys.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Every non-tentpole movie. There’s very little oxygen in space and even less at the multiples, where Star Trek, Iron Man 3, and The Great Gatsby were sucking it all up. Iron Man 3, which on Thursday became one of only 16 movies in history to earn more than $1 billion worldwide (after just 23 days in release), slipped to second place after two weeks at Number One and earned another estimated $35.2 million in North America, for a domestic total of $337.1 million. Gatsby also dropped one notch, to third place, on estimated earnings of $23.4 million, for a two-weekend total of $90.2 million.
After that, the drop-off was steep. No other movie earned more than $3.1 million this weekend; that’s the estimated take of Number Four film Pain and Gain, which has earned $46.6 million over four weeks. Caveman cartoon The Croods remains in the top five after nine weeks, coming in fifth with an estimated $2.8 million, for a total so far of $176.8 million.
LIGHTEN UP, ‘FRANCES’: The only movie that dared open opposite Into Darkness this weekend was Noah Baumbach’s black-and-white indie dramedy Frances Ha, which opened on just four screens but earned an estimated $33,500 on each. That’s the best per-screen average of the week, by far; Star Trek earned a per-screen average of $18,241.
Other limited-release movies saw business among non-Trekkies boom as well. The Iceman saw sales rise more than 300 percent over last week after it added another 148 screens (for a total of 165), grossing an estimated $452,000 this weekend, for a three-week total of $752,000. Also adding screens and sales were Kon-Tiki (which grossed an estimated $153,000 this weekend, for a total of $415,600), Stories We Tell (another estimated $137,000, for a 10-day total of $180,000), and Love Is All You Need (another estimated $72,700, for a three-week total of $176,000). Most cleverly of all, The Weinstein Company’s months-old animated hit Escape From Planet Earth, playing on jut 254 screens last week, added another 439 screens in its 14th week and was rewarded with an estimated $222,000, up 118 percent from last week, for a total so far of $55.6 million. The Weinsteins must have figured that, if you couldn’t get into see Star Trek, the next best thing was their sci-fi cartoon starring the voice of the original Captain Kirk.