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Thinking outside the box office: Star Trek teleports to top

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Thinking outside the box office: Star Trek teleports to top

"Star Trek Beyond" should teleport to the top of boxoffices after its July 22 wide release, but the Enterprise's thrusters are not quitewhat they used to be.

The rebooted franchise appears to be losing steam, possibly succumbingto a sequel fatigue thathas been sweeping other franchises. Other 2016 films like "Teenage Mutant NinjaTurtles: Out of the Shadows," and "X-Men: Apocalypse" saw debut revenuescompress compared to their forerunners.

"Star Trek Beyond" is forecast to bring in significantlyless than its 2009 and 2013 predecessors, "Star Trek" and "Star TrekInto Darkness." Those films collected $75.2 million and $70.2 million at opening,respectively, whereas even the most bullish forecasts put "Star Trek Beyond"at about $60 million, according to Variety,DeadlineHollywood and BoxOffice.com.More tempered expectations project the new film will take in about $55 million atopening.

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"Star Trek Beyond"
Source: Paramount Pictures

That should still yield a profit for the $185 million production,and Viacom Inc.'s ParamountPictures is betting there is even more fuel in the tank.

"Star Trek" cost $154.1 million, while "Star TrekInto Darkness" cost $193.8 million, and each of those movies put the studioin the black by 21.9%. Further, a list of similar films in the sci-fi genre compiledby SNL Kagan saw average profit margins of 35.2% on average production costs of$159.5 million and average opening grosses of $64.0 million.Paramount said July 18 that it will release a fourthfilm in the modern Star Trek film series.

The latest movie was running at an 88% "fresh" scoreon Rotten Tomatoes as of about 5 p.m. ET July 21, in the ballpark of its two predecessors.

On the other end of the critical spectrum, the newest installmentin the Ice Age franchise is getting pummeled by reviewers but still stands to collectthe second highest weekend gross behind "Star Trek Beyond." As of 5 p.m.ET on July 21, "Ice Age: Collision Course" was running at a meager 11%"rotten"rating, the lowest in an already low-rated series of Ice Age movies that peakedwith the first installment. But there is no denying the earning power of animatedanimal movies, and Ice Age's collection of frozen critters should again delivera win.

The new Ice Age film will almost certainly collect less thanits predecessors. BoxOffice.com puts the opening at $33 million, and Deadline concurs,noting 20th Century Fox's target of $30 million and rivals' expectations that thefilm could go as high as $35 million. On the low end, Variety pegged its forecast at $25 million.

Those estimates come in below the other titles in the franchise.The 2006 "Ice Age: The Meltdown" was the only one to break above $50 millionat opening; it collected $68 million. The other Ice Age movies landed in the $40million-range.

But profit margins for previous Ice Age movies show plenty ofwiggle room. The lowest profit margin of the group was still 43.7%. An opening inthe $30 million range should keep "Collision Course" above water.

The second and third highest earning films over the weekend willlikely be fellow animated tale "The Secret Life of Pets" and the rebooted"Ghostbusters." Despite plenty of media attention and solid critical ratings,"Ghostbusters" failed to outstrip "Pets" at opening, deliveringa $46 million opening gross compared to "Pets'" $50.6 million in its secondweekend. But while "Ghostbusters" failed to deliver a breakout, the rakewas still above Sony Corp.'s$40 million estimate.Variety described the result as "anebulous region between hit and disappointment."

Lastly among wide releases, Time Warner Inc.'s New Line Cinema will deliver "LightsOut," a haunting thriller that is catching plenty of critical acclaim withan 82% "fresh"Rotten Tomatoes rating as of 5 p.m. ET July 21. The movie is expected to cash inon a spillover crowd from the weekend's blockbusters to collect $17 million by BoxOffice.com'sreckoning. Variety and Deadline are notquite as optimistic, putting up ranges of $13 million to $15 million.

Even at the low end of the forecast, it should be a pretty goodhaul for the $5 million production, helping save it from the decidedly mixed resultsin the horror-thriller genre. A list of five similar titles compiled by SNL Kaganshow an average profit loss of 1.4%.

But one name in that group stands as a warning for the studio."Oculus" opened to $12 million, similar to "Lights Out" forecasts,and had a similar budget of $5.1 million. However, after additional costs, it stillmanaged to end in the red, leaving theaters at a profit loss of 35.4%.

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