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Why ‘Dune Part Two’ Is Yet Another Blow To ‘Star Trek 4’

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at January 1, 1970

Two bits of good news for Dune yesterday. First, the $165 million sci-fi epic earned another $3.9 million on Tuesday, bringing its five-day cume to $48.5 million. The 8% jump from Monday (which itself dropped 63% from Sunday) is better than the 1.3% drop for F9 on its first Tuesday after itself dropping 63% from Sunday. It’s a smaller jump than Venom 2 (+9%), but the superhero sequel dropped 72% on its first Monday. Its five-day “weekend to cume” multiplier is 1.18x, on par with F9 and Black Widow. It’s not the next Titanic or Fellowship of the Ring, but it’s sticking around for now. Oh, and the Legendary/Warner Bros. film officially got a sequel yesterday afternoon, with Dune part Two now set for October 20, 2023.

A splashy sequel announcement isn’t the same as actually getting a sequel. Paramount infamously boasted of a fourth Star Trek movie, one bringing back Chris Hemsworth as Kirk’s late father, in the days before Star Trek Beyond bombed with just $158 million domestic and $338 million worldwide on a $185 million budget. Five years later, we’re still waiting on a fourth Star Trek film, with one tentatively scheduled for June 9, 2023. The early announcement of Dune part Two is likewise partially about creating the impression of global box office success (see also: Wonder Woman 3, Cruella 2 and Jungle Cruise 2). However, I’m guessing it won’t go the way of the fourth Divergent movie, Green Lantern 2 or Bryan Singer’s sequel to Superman Returns.

Let’s assume Dune part Two, starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya and whomever else survived the first half of Frank Herbert’s original sci-fi novel, opens as intended in late October 2023. That would ironically be yet another pickle for the long-suffering and potentially doomed fourth Star Trek movie. What was the biggest hook for Star Trek in 2009? It was a larger-than-life sci-fi swashbuckler offering marquee characters amid a crowdpleasing action fantasy akin to the original Star Wars movies. What was the biggest problem for Star Trek Beyond in summer 2016? It was rendered culturally irrelevant by the return of Star Wars and the emergence of other similar-in-spirit franchises like Fast and the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy. It was rendered “just another IP-centric action fantasy.”

Paramount’s Star Trek reboot wasn’t that big of a hit in 2009, over-performing domestically ($256 million) but grossing just $385 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. After Batman Begins earned $371 million worldwide on a $150 million budget and spawned the $1 billion-grossing The Dark Knight, there was reasonable hope that Star Trek 2 would perform well enough as a breakout sequel to a well-liked and leggy franchise-starter. Star Trek Into Darkness took four years to arrive, by which time the Avengers and the Fast Family were taking over Hollywood. Cue a $228 million domestic and $467 million worldwide on a $180 million budget, with much of the upswing for the well-reviewed but “online divisive” sequel due to a 3-D conversion this time out.

When Star Trek Beyond opened in July 2016, even amid strong reviews and decent marketing (the pre-Force Awakens teaser sold Fast and the Furious style thrills while the early-summer trailer sold sci-fi gravitas), it was just another IP sequel amid a slew of once-were-special franchises (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Independence Day, Jason Bourne, Ghostbusters, etc.) in a summer dominated by “new” superhero movies and talking animal toons. Matt Shakman’s Star Trek 4 will face the same problem. It will open in a year filled with franchise installments (Fast & Furious 10, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron) from the very same IP that crushed Star Trek Beyond alongside other action ensembles like Mission: Impossible 8 and Shazam: Fury of the Gods.

It’s hard to position Star Trek as the dominant sci-fi fantasy action franchise with Star Wars in the mix. Its hard to sell yourself as the dominant ensemble action franchise about surrogate families with Fast & Furious, Mission: Impossible, Shazam and Guardians of the Galaxy opening before or after. With Dune on the horizon, Star Trek 4 can’t even position itself as the modern serious/contemplative sci-fi blockbuster. Star Trek 4 was a problematic proposition from the moment Star Trek Beyond underwhelmed 5.25 years ago. The current “audiences and critics approve” narrative around Dune, which will presumably only increase if it holds up theatrically and wins a few tech Oscars, will only further render Star Trek 4 as yesterday’s news and a painfully unnecessary would-be blockbuster.

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