By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES(Variety.com) - "Star Trek Beyond" debuted to a solid $59.6 million this weekend, signaling that after six television series, 13 movies, and 50 years in the pop culture conversation, there's still life left in one of Hollywood's most durable franchises.
And there are more intergalactic missions to come. As boon to Trekkies, Paramount took the unusual step of announcing yet another sequel was in the works even before this latest USS Enterprise adventure sailed into theaters. The studio has lined up Chris Hemsworth to reprise his role as Capt. Kirk's father despite the fact that he was earlier depicted being incinerated in a spaceship disaster. In science-fiction, it seems, death is merely a temporary predicament.
The latest film performed respectably, but its opening is down from the two previous films in the series. "Star Trek Beyond" couldn't match the $70.2 million launch of 2013's "Star Trek Into Darkness" nor could it top the $75.2 million bow of 2009's "Star Trek." Moreover, with a price tag of $185 million, plus tens of millions in promotional spending, the film needs to perform well overseas if it's going to make a profit.
That's not a problem for one of the weekend's other new releases, Fox's "Ice Age Collision Course." The fifth film in the animated series focuses on a group of Paleolithic creatures racked up $21 million from 3,992 locations. That would be a worrisome, even disastrous result for a film that carries a $105 million budget. However, the "Ice Age" films have always been received more warmly overseas than they are stateside. The most recent installment, 2012's "Continental Drift," did 81.6% of its $877.2 million global total overseas, while its predecessor, 2009's "Dawn of the Dinosaur," picked up 77.8% of its $886.7 million worldwide haul in foreign markets. "Collision Course" has already grossed over $140 million internationally in 60 markets, so even though its domestic results are disappointing, the film could theoretically make money.
In a triumph of profit margins, New Line Cinema's "Lights Out" racked up $21.6 million in its debut. That's a healthy return on its $5 million budget. Though its parent studio, Warner Bros., has struggled of late, fielding duds such as "The Legend of Tarzan" and "The Nice Guys," New Line is enjoying a hot hand at the multiplexes. Earlier this summer, the label scored with the action comedy "Central Intelligence" and the horror sequel "The Conjuring 2." "Lights Out" centers on a family that is haunted by an evil spirit and was developed by director David F. Sandberg from a 2013 short film.
"Star Trek Beyond" represented a passing of the baton. J.J. Abrams, the director who revitalized the series by arming it with a youthful cast and sprinkling in light flares, departed "Star Trek" to make "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." That left Justin Lin, who made his bones on the "Fast & Furious" series, manning the Enterprise. He brought back cast members Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban and mixed in a new villain, played by Idris Elba.
Among holdovers, Illumination Entertainment and Universal's "The Secret Life of Pets" continues to be one of the year's biggest hits, adding $29.3 million to its $260.7 million haul.
In its fifth weekend of release, "Independence Day: Resurgence" crawled over the $100 million mark, earning less than $1 million for the weekend. The $165 million production has gotten a little assistance overseas, earning nearly $250 million.
A week after debuting in a handful of theaters, "Hillary's America" expanded to 1,217 locations, picking up $3.7 million. The controversial documentary alleges that the Democratic Party has covered up its historical support of slavery and racism. It's the latest work from Dinesh D'Souza, the director of "2016: Obama's America."
Woody Allen's "Cafe Society" also did well in its expansion, moving from five theaters to 50, and picking up $875,000 in the process. The nostalgic look at old Hollywood has earned $1.4 million. Amazon is releasing the film through a distribution partnership with Lionsgate.
Among limited releases, Fox Searchlight debuted "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie" in 313 theaters where the big screen version of the cult series earned $1.9 million.
The Film Arcade's "Don't Think Twice" bowed to $90,126 in a single location, representing the year's highest per-screen average. Mike Birbiglia ("Sleepwalk With Me") directs the look at the members of an improv group, as they face career crossroads.