While the USS Enterprise has yet to conquer foreign galaxies, it is starting to pick up speed overseas.
Playing in seven foreign markets this weekend, J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek Into Darkness" collected $31.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures. The studio said the sequel performed about 70% better than the original did when it debuted in those same countries four years ago. The movie did well in locations like Germany and Australia but fared best in the United Kingdom, where it grossed $13.3 million.
The movie needs to fare well abroad if it is to become a hit, because the film cost Paramount and co-financier Skydance Productions at least $190 million to produce and more than $100 million more to market.
But "Star Trek" has long been a property that resonates most strongly with American audiences. Abrams' first entry in the franchise made only about 33% of its overall $385.7 worldwide gross internationally — not the pattern most big-budget tent poles typically follow.
Realizing it had to boost its overseas ticket sales on the "Star Trek" sequel, Paramount sent cast members Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto to Australia, Germany, Mexico and England to promote the movie over the last month. The studio is also emphasizing that the second film features bigger special effects and was converted into 3-D — unlike the original.
"Traditionally, the 'Star Trek' TV show was known for its lower-budget visual effects, and the international audience in the past didn't connect to it," Rob Moore, Paramount's vice chairman, said on Sunday. "Now the movie has a great combination of humanity and action that foreign markets can embrace."
Moore added that in Mexico — where "Star Trek" has "traditionally not been good at all" — weekend business nearly tripled from 2009, indicating not just that the local marketplace has grown in recent years but that "the franchise is finding a new audience."
"Star Trek Into Darkness" will debut in the U.S. and Canada's IMAX theaters on Wednesday night and expand to theaters nationwide on Thursday. Next weekend, the film will also launch in Russia, followed by major markets like China and Brazil in June.
[Updated, 4:31 p.m.: A previous version of this post said Rob Moore's title was vice president of Paramount. He is actually vice chairman of Paramount.]