It’s been a rough few months for Paramount Pictures.
Not just because films like “Zoolander 2” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” fell flat at the box office. The venerable studio has been engulfed in the ongoing corporate fight over the future of its parent company, Viacom.
The company’s CEO Philippe Dauman is selling a minority stake in Paramount, a move that controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone, oppose. So things must be a little awkward on the lot.
But help, or at least a Starship Enterprise-sized distraction, is on the way. The studio is bringing “Star Trek Beyond” into theaters, launching the third film in the rebooted sci-fi series across 3,800 locations, including 391 Imax venues. The latest in the long-running franchise is expected to pull in a solid $55 million, with some analysts projecting it could hit $60 million.
That should be enough to top the weekend box office, but it is down from the $70.2 million launch of 2014’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” and the $75.2 million bow of 2009’s “Star Trek.” The latest voyage sees Justin Lin (“Fast & Furious 6”) take over the directing reins from J.J. Abrams, who is still a producer after helming the two previous films.
The new film is an expensive one, carrying an $185 million production budget. It brings back Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock, and Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, with Idris Elba joining the franchise as a mysterious alien with an axe to grind against the Federation. The film also marks one of the final appearances of Anton Yelchin, the 27-year old series regular who died last month in a car accident.
Paramount clearly believes that audiences are still eager to follow the Enterprise crew on more deep space adventures. It already announced a sequel, which will bring back Chris Hemsworth as Kirk’s father, and is backing a new television series.
“It’s definitely a bright spot for Paramount,” said Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at BoxOffice.com. “There’s still momentum left in the franchise.”
Fox will counter with another chapter in one of its longest running and most successful series, “Ice Age: Collision Course.” The animated sequel will bow on 3,991 locations, where it is expected to pull in $25 million. The films follow a collection of Paleolithic creatures and feature vocal performances by the likes of Ray Romano, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah, and Jennifer Lopez. “Collision Course” cost $105 million to produce.
The “Ice Age” films tend to play better overseas than they do domestically. The most recent installment, 2012’s “Continental Drift,” did 81.6% of its $877.2 million global total overseas, while its predecessor, 2009’s “Dawn of the Dinosaur,” picked up 77.8% of its $886.7 million worldwide haul in foreign markets. To that end, “Collision Course” has been in release for several weeks, having opened in several overseas territories, including France, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Its foreign total stands at $126.7 million.
The weekend’s other newbie is New Line Cinema’s “Lights Out,” a critically heralded horror thriller about an evil spirit that haunts a family. It’s shaping up to be a nice hit for the studio, looking at an opening between $13 million to $15 million when it launches on more than 2,800 locations. That’s a healthy return considering that “Lights Out” cost less than $5 million to produce.
The summer box office got off to a rocky start in 2016 as high profile sequels such as “Alice Through the Looking Glass” wilted and hits such as “Captain America: Civil War” couldn’t match last year’s blockbusters. Things seem to be turning around, however. The three new release should power receipts over the year-ago period — a stretch that saw the second weekend of “Ant-Man” and the failure of “Pixels.” Contributing to the overall optimism is the fact that “Jason Bourne” and “Suicide Squad” are still on deck and drawing a lot of interest.
“This is going to be a back-end weighted summer,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “The end is looking much stronger than the beginning.”