POLL: Star Trek's Opening Weekend Box Office? (w/ Analysis)

Star Trek Movie Premiere

Executives at Paramount are probably feeling anywhere from cautiously optimistic to privately euphoric heading into Thursday evening's opening of J.J. Abrams' reboot of the potential billion-dollars Star Trek franchise. While measuring "buzz is an imperfect science, the metrics than can be qualified are all signaling audiences are geared to embrace the retooling of the 40 year-old property.

The glass-half empty point-of-view, however, is despite Star Trek's place at the forefront of the nation's pop culture conscious, on the big screen, the franchise has something of a spotty history, as well as a seeming box office ceiling the studio is hoping to break through this time around.

How do you think the film will fare this weekend at the North American box office? Our latest Newsarama reader poll [below] asks exactly that, but before we ask to you register your vote, let's look at some of the factors you may want to consider:

Star Trek will open in 3700 screens beginning with Thursday 7pm shows as compared to 4100 X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened to last week [click on the link for more general May and 2009 box office indicators].

That 3700 figure is an important one to consider, as it's a somewhat average figure for May tent-pole releases.

For comparison's sake, of the 12 highest May box office openings ever (of which Wolverine is #12 at $85.1m), 7 of them in better than 4000 theaters.

Marvel's latest mutant offering will also be Star Trek's only real competition, as the only new wide release will be the comedy Next Day Air, opening in just 1000 venues.

As for predictions from box office watchers, the early ones are varying slightly.  Boxofficemojo and boxofficeguru (which nailed Wolverine last week) are in the $70m range, while Variety reports Paramount insiders and rival studios are predicting $50 to $60m.

As mentioned, measuring "buzz" is often difficult, the tea leaves so seem to favor Star Trek in a big way. Critical reception has been extremely positive, with Rottentomatos.com showing a 94% positive review percentage in is broad category (with many of these reviews glowing), and 88% in its "Top Critics" category.

But even more impressive has been the success of the marketing effort behind the release, more specifically the talking points that this Star Trek is intended for and plays equally well to existing, older hardcore fans and to younger, and more casual moviegoers. Nearly every feature and review on the film has focused on Paramount's main message – that this is "not your father's Star Trek" – in prominent fashion, and there likely won't be a potential moviegoer in America that doesn't know this is being touted as the accessible Star Trek.

The film and perhaps the franchise will live-or-die on how it's 'accessed' by "the mainstream", but that's the one factor that might be giving Paramount some pause. Even when it's been good (The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, First Contact), Star Trek has never been a box office giant, despite its prominence in the public's conscious.

Adjusted for inflation, the very first Star Trek film, 1979's The Motion Picture was the most successful, making approximately $230-$240m at the box office, with 1986's The Voyage Home being the only other film joining it above the adjusted $200m mark.

$200 million is nothing to sneeze at by any means, but in the era of $300, $400, and even $500 million dollars blockbusters, Star Trek's high water mark has been somewhat modest. For comparison's sake, consider since 2007, 17 movies have broken that mark (with another handful knocking on the door), including Alvin & the Chipmunks, Kung Fu Panda, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

On an all-time box office chart adjusted for inflation, The Motion Picture would chart in the low 200's.

The low water mark was the film that along with the last TV series Enterprise, led to this year's reboot. 2002's Star Trek Nemesis made just $43 million at the box office it entire run (roughly $53 in 2009 dollars).

Paramount likely hopes the likely curiosity that drove viewers to the first The Motion Picture and the arguable accessibility factor of The Voyage Home will establish a baseline for new film, and the building buzz and word-of-mouth factor will push the franchise to figures it has never reached before. A best-case scenario would be an Iron Man type success story -a film with a modest built-in base of fans that cracked the mainstream by positive reviews and buzz.

But we could crunch numbers all day. We still want to know what you think Star Trek will make in its opening weekend. Register your vote just below and stick around to discuss it with your fellow fans.

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