With this new film now out and through its opening weekend, I thought it might be fun to see how it stacked up to its predecessors. The numbers tell an interesting story.
First, any comparison over such a span of time cannot be done by just comparing the total dollars. The new movies always win so it is an unfair comparison. Fortunately the best site for finding a movie's stats, Box Office Mojo, tracks based on both actual dollars and adjusting for inflation. I found some startling information.
Some of what I'm about to delve into breaks down these movies in extreme detail. Hollywood and the theater business have changed immensely in the past 40 years. 40 years ago we had lots of single screen theaters and a growing number of multi-screen theaters. These days, there are few of those single screen theaters left and the number of screens in the muli-screen theaters had jumped. I've only lived in Colorado for about 30 years, but in that time we have gone from the largest being a 4 screen theater to the largest being a 16 screen theater. My point is that an opening weekend today does not compare to one from 30 years ago. A movie today can open on over 3,000 screens and the same type of movie 30 years ago might have opened with less than half that number.
The surprising thing is which Star Trek films come out on top. Star Trek (2009) wins in just about every category. Just about. When you start looking at the number of theaters and look at the average per theater, Star Trek: The Motion Picture did the best. While it played on under 900 screens, each theater took in the modern equivalent of $44,000. Whereas with the 2009 film, each theater only earned the equivalent of $20,800. Just using the numeral of the movie, they stand in a per theater ranking of, 1, 4, 2, 11, 3, 8, 6, 12, 7, 5, 9, 10.
Just in case that might be a fluke, let's look at the total movie income. STID will be ranked where it currently falls, which is no indication of where it will finish up. I considered leaving it out, but it is still interesting where it falls after just the opening weekend. The movies rank as follows for total income; 11, 1, 4, 2, 3, 8, 7, 6, 9, 5, 12, 10. Yes, that is correct. STID, just in it's opening weekend beat Star Trek: Nemesis. And that is adjusted for inflation. The surprise, at least for most die-hard fans, is that of the older movies, Star Trek: The motion Picture raked in the most money (adjusted for inflation). Even not adjusted for inflation, it ranks fifth.
One of the things I'm attempting to point out is that box office income does not always equate to quality. Other factors are in play. At the time it came out, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the first new Star Trek since the original series was cancelled. It rode the wave of the Star Wars driven science fiction mania. The story is weak and the film has too many special effects. It is a slow, cerebral piece, just the way Roddenberry wanted it. I think the 2009 film had a similar boost, being the first Star Trek since Enterprise was cancelled and done by J.J. Abrams. That leaves the two films that have taken their place at the top of the list of popular Star Trek movies, and the linking one. Films 4 and 2 are the fan favorites and 3 isn't far behind. With the number of people interested in a good action film, STID may rise in rank to knock some of them down (total income adjusted for inflation), but I doubt if it will beat its predecessor and it will have a hard time bumping Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In any case, it will be interesting to see where it finally falls.