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Eff JJ Abrams and eff Paramount

Paramount Hopes New ‘Star Trek’ Is a Global Crowd-Pleaser

For “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the coming $190 million movie from J. J. Abrams, the mission is to boldly go where no Star Trek film has gone before — and get audiences overseas to care.

“Star Trek” may be one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood history, but it has one surprising flaw: Captain Kirk doesn’t travel well. Foreign moviegoers for one reason or another have never fully embraced the swaggering Starfleet captain and his oddball crew. That is a major problem for Paramount Pictures now that international ticket sales account for up to 80 percent of a movie’s total gross.

A 2009 effort to revive the Star Trek movie series was a smash hit in North America, taking in about $280 million, after adjusting for inflation. But box-office analysts were deeply disappointed by the film’s foreign box office total of $139 million.

So Paramount has revved up its engines to warp speed for “Into Darkness,” which is already playing in some countries and will arrive in the United States on May 17. The Viacom-owned studio has increased its international marketing budget for the film by 35 percent over that for the 2009 film, asked stars to do an unusual amount of globetrotting and staggered the release dates to shield “Into Darkness” from competition.

Paramount’s bid to draw in more foreign ticket buyers even extended to casting decisions and the script, which turns on a more terrestrial story. “Into Darkness” finds the Enterprise crew called back home, where a terror force has infiltrated the Starfleet organization.

“The team has really been in the weeds, so to speak, going country by country and looking at every possible opportunity,” Brad Grey, Paramount’s chairman, said of the studio’s marketers in particular. “On a profit level, focusing on your shareholders, this is now how detailed you have to be on pictures of this scope and scale.”

Mr. Grey added, “Between J. J. outdoing himself and our efforts to build up our global distribution system, I’m very, very confident that the franchise is finally going to live up to its potential.” In 2009, “Star Trek” may have been a disappointment outside North America, but it also represented enormous progress. The preceding film in the franchise, “Star Trek: Nemesis” in 2002, took in a grand total of $31 million overseas.

But Paramount and its financing and producing partner, Skydance Productions, are counting on “Into Darkness” to do much better — perhaps delivering a 100 percent increase over the 2009 movie’s overseas gross. The studio has little room for error. Hollywood’s major studios will release as many as eight movies each over the summer, but Paramount will issue only two: “Into Darkness” and the risky “World War Z,” an intense zombie thriller starring Brad Pitt.

Pure science fiction has long been a difficult sell overseas, where audiences generally prefer space movies that have more fantasy elements, like “Star Wars.” The Star Trek movies, at least until Mr. Abrams came along to direct the 2009 version, also lacked eye-popping visual effects, leaning more on makeup tricks and drama on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Six “Star Trek” television shows, all notable for their kitsch, have been dubbed and distributed overseas, creating a solid (albeit older) fan base. But the TV show also hurts Paramount’s big-screen efforts, adding to a perception that the franchise is an impenetrable universe of characters and story lines.

The 2009 film, which featured a young cast but no proven stars, was in some ways torpedoed by Paramount’s own distribution decisions. Four other big releases — “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Angels & Demons,” “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “Terminator Salvation” — all opened in the same period, giving “Star Trek” little time to find its way.

This time, Paramount has decided on a staggered rollout, releasing “Into Darkness” in Australia, Germany, Britain and Mexico before the United States and Canada, and holding the movie back elsewhere. It will not arrive in Japan until August, for instance. Unlike the 2009 chapter, “Into Darkness” is planned for distribution in China. All told, Paramount will stage red carpet premieres in seven countries.

Cast members and producers have been crisscrossing the globe for months as part of advance marketing efforts. Chris Pine, who plays Capt. James Kirk, was dispatched to Tokyo in December to unveil a nine-minute trailer. More recently, Bryan Burk, an “Into Darkness” producer, went on an 11-city foreign tour — South America, Asia, Europe — to show 35 minutes of the movie, almost a third of it, to journalists and exhibitors.

Paramount went out of its way to cast foreign actors, in particular adding the British star Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. And writers tried to produce a self-contained plot that would be exciting to loyal Star Trek fans but not put off people who know nothing about the franchise, which now includes 12 movies. (Research showed that foreign ticket buyers viewed the 2009 film as “too Trekkie and too sci-fi,” in the words of one Paramount executive.)

“Classically people think that it’s a space film, but this one is a very earthbound story,” Mr. Pine recently said at a convention for theater owners.

Judging by advance excerpts Paramount has shown, the studio has added some superhero touches; Mr. Pine, for instance, dons a space suit and zooms through an asteroid field in a sequence that resembles an “Iron Man” moment.

The “Iron Man” movies, as Paramount knows, having distributed the first two, are enormously popular overseas.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/business/media/star-trek-into-darkness-aims-for-world-audience.html

The first film was too Trekkie and too sci-fi? I just can't with this comment.

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