"Star Trek Into Darkness" opened atop the U.S. box office, though its debut didn't quite make the jump to warp speed that Paramount Pictures executives expected.
"Into Darkness," the second J.J. Abrams-directed installment in the long-running science-fiction franchise, took in $70.6 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates, bringing its total take to $84.1 million. The movie launched Wednesday in 336 Imax locations before opening wide Thursday.
The overall total, while healthy, was $16 million less than what Paramount, which co-financed the $190-million-budgeted film with Skydance Productions, had forecast.
The movie did receive a nice bump Saturday, particularly from matinee showings, indicating that audience word of mouth is strong and that families are seeing the PG-13 movie together. Moviegoers — 16% of whom saw the movie in the Imax format since it opened — assigned the picture an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
The film's weekend domestic numbers represent a modest 6% increase from Abrams' 2009 reboot, though that uptick includes the addition of 3-D and Imax ticket premiums.
Better news for the studio: The "Trek" franchise does finally seem to be catching on globally. Because the last film made only 33% of its $385.7-million global gross overseas, Paramount thought long and hard about how to better capture the international audience, which has never embraced the series. Efforts made at the script level (more action, less allegory) and on the promotional front (five red-carpet premieres and counting) seem to be paying dividends. "Into Darkness" took in $80.5 million overseas for the weekend, bringing its international total to $164.6 million.
"That's where we put the emphasis, educating the international market on what 'Star Trek' is today," Paramount Pictures Vice Chairman Rob Moore said, adding that the studio hopes for an eventual even split between the domestic and international box-office totals for "Into Darkness."
Here in the States, "Trek" continues to skew male (64%) and older (73% of the weekend audience was 25 and older), signifying, said Hollywood.com box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, that the brand remains "very specific, connoting a certain type of moviegoing experience that is like catnip to the fanboys but has a tougher time breaking out to a general audience."
"Into Darkness" was the weekend's only major studio release. Of the holdovers, "Iron Man 3," which led the box office the past two weeks, came in second, with $35.2 million, bringing its total to $337.1 million. "The Great Gatsby" enjoyed a decent second-weekend hold, dropping 53% for a $23.4-million weekend. Baz Luhrmann's eye-popping take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel has now grossed $90.2 million.
Meanwhile, Universal's "Fast & Furious 6" kicked off its worldwide release, premiering in England and Ireland to a studio-record $13.8 million total. The movie opens Friday here.
On the indie front, Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha," a sardonic and moving portrait of friendship that Baumbach wrote with lead actress Greta Gerwig, enjoyed a strong opening in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York, selling out many of its showings. The well-reviewed film grossed $134,000, averaging $33,500 per screen. Sarah Polley's acclaimed memoir "Stories We Tell" had a solid second week, adding 20 theaters and grossing just under $137,000.
Overall, the weekend came in around $153 million, up 7% from last year when "Battleship" was the big studio bow. It's the first weekend of the past five to better the previous year's totals. With the high-profile "The Hangover Part III" joining "Fast & Furious 6" in theaters next week, forecasters believe the upturn will continue.