Star Trek knocks off Iron Man at box-office

Star Trek: Into Darkness has warped its way to a US$70.6 million (NZ$85.19 million) domestic launch from Friday to Sunday, though it's not setting any light-speed records with a debut that's lower than the studio's expectations.

The latest voyage of the starship Enterprise fell short of its predecessor, 2009's Star Trek, which opened with US$75.2 million.

Since premiering on Wednesday in huge-screen IMAX theatres and expanding on Thursday to general cinemas, Into Darkness has pulled in US$84.1 million, well below distributor Paramount's initial forecast of US$100 million. The film added US$40 million overseas, pushing its total to US$80.5 million since it began rolling out internationally a week earlier.

The Star Trek sequel bumped Iron Man 3 down to second place after two weekends on top. Robert Downey Jr's superhero saga took in US$35.2 million domestically to lift its receipts to US$337.1 million. Overseas, Iron Man 3 added US$40.2 million, raising its international total to US$736.2 million and its worldwide tally to nearly US$1.1 billion.

While Iron Man 3 and Into Darkness did well overseas, they were outmatched by the debut of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, which followed its domestic debut a week earlier with a wide rollout internationally. Gatsby pulled in US$42.1 million overseas, coming in a bit ahead of both Iron Man 3 and Into Darkness.

Domestically, Gatsby held up well at No.3 with US$23.4 million, lifting its total to US$90.2 million.

In today's Hollywood of bigger, better sequels, follow-up films often outdo the box office of their predecessors, as each Iron Man sequel has done. While Into Darkness earned good reviews and is getting strong word-of-mouth from fans, the film did not quite measure up to the opening weekend of director JJ Abrams's Star Trek reboot from four years ago, at least domestically.

"Star Trek remains a fan-boy movie. It doesn't seem to have the same kind of cross-over appeal as say an Iron Man or some of these others," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "It's a very specific brand, but I think the general public would love this movie, because it's such an action movie. But to get a hundred-million-plus opening weekend, unless you're Twilight, you really have to cross over to all audiences."

Paramount points out that overseas business is up in many markets, though, so that worldwide, the sequel is off to a better start.

"Because of the nature of the franchise, because of how many movies have been made and the various forms of the TV shows, I'm not sure that Star Trek goes by the rules of normal sequels. I think each movie stands on its own, because it's a unique franchise," said Don Harris, Paramount's head of distribution. "My goal was always that we grow the franchise. We're clearly seeing by today's numbers that the movie is being embraced on a worldwide basis in a way we've never seen before."

Harris said that domestically, Into Darkness finished its first weekend six per cent ahead of revenues for 2009's Star Trek, which got a head-start with US$4 million in Thursday night previews to give it a US$79.2 million haul through the first Sunday.

But Into Darkness had a full day of screenings on Thursday plus its Wednesday IMAX business. Unlike the first movie, which played only in 2D, the sequel also had the benefit of 3D screenings that cost a few dollars more. Yet even with the 3D upcharge and the earlier debut, it came away with just US$4.9 million more than its predecessor through to Sunday.

Still, it's a solid starting place for the movie to live long and prosper at theatres, with Paramount hoping Into Darkness can surpass the US$385 million worldwide total of Star Trek.

"I think we're well along on that road," Harris said.

Estimated ticket sales are for Friday through to Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com.

1. Star Trek: Into Darkness, US$70.6 million (NZ$85.19 million).

2. Iron Man 3, US$35.2 million.

3. The Great Gatsby, US$23.4 million.

4. Pain & Gain, US$3.1 million.

5. The Croods, US$2.75 million.

6. 42, US$2.73 million.

7. Oblivion, US$2.2 million.

8. Mud, US$2.16 million.

9. Peeples, US$2.15 million.

10. The Big Wedding, US$1.1 million.

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