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Remember that article we posted last week about how Paramount was ready to restart preproduction on a new Star Trek movie, bringing back all the stars of the previous J.J. Abrams films? It turns out that when Paramount said that in their investor’s meeting, they had not actually consulted any of the actors or their agents.

Oops.

On Feb. 15, you’ll remember that Paramount, having just changed their name from ViacomCBS), announced that they were getting the band back together, and that Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and the rest were all on board for a fourth film. This all made sense, given how much better the Trek franchise has been doing over the past two or three years. Paramount is in a much better place now than it was when talks over Star Trek 4 with Pine and Quinto dissolved over money.

Oddly, it was producer J.J. Abrams, who rebooted the sci-fi franchise for the big screen in 2009, who stated during the investor’s event that “We are thrilled to say that we are hard at work on a new Star Trek film that will be shooting by the end of the year that will be featuring our original cast.” This was apparently not particularly true.

Apparently most, if not all, teams for the franchise’s primary players — who include Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldaña and John Cho — were not aware that an announcement for another film was coming, much less that their clients would be touted as a part of the deal, and certainly not that their clients would be shooting a movie by year’s end. Pine, who plays Captain Kirk, is the first to enter into early negotiations as he is the lynchpin to the project. Without him, there’s no Star Trek movie—but he’s only in the earliest stages of negotiations, and the answer may still be “no”.

What we have, though, is an announcement that the film will release December 22, 2023, but as of the moment there’s no finished script, the project hasn’t been greenlit by Paramount (a fact Abrams omitted in his statements), and there’s no budget. Abrams dropping this as a release date essentially gives away all of Paramount’s negotiating leverage, and if this thing actually goes at this point the cast members will end up with super-sized deals. Presumably they figured it was a worthwhile gamble as Paramount courts Wall Street Investors, but it was a risky one.

Making false forward-looking statements is a problem as far as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission goes. Specifically, it’s illegal. However, shareholders can’t sue corporate boards for statements like these if they’re couched in specifical disclamatory language. We don’t know where Abrams statements fall in this spectrum, but he was clearly trying to sell something to investors that he didn’t actually have in hand.

An initial plan for a fourth Star Trek fell apart in 2018. Talks with stars Pine and Chris Hemsworth — who would have played Captain Kirk’s father in a reprisal of his small role in the 2009 franchise-starter — dissolved over money, with the studio and finance partner Skydance holding a tough line on budget. Jim Gianopulos was just a bit over a year into his role as the head of the studio, which was dealing with a series of box office bombs and needed to trim spending. The Star Trek franchise was not doing well, with the third movie, Star Trek Beyond, grossing only $343 million worldwide on a budget of $190 million, the lowest box office receipts of the three films.

Fast worward to today, and Paramount+ has no fewer than five trek series streaming to the world, two of them animated. WandaVision director Matt Shakman is allegedly set to direct the new film. They’re in a much better place now than in 2018 when it looked like Star Trek was tanking hard.

What seemed expensive in 2018 is now more or less a production funding baseline, in world where Netflix or Apple is making $30 million-plus talent deals. For Paramount, this “hail mary” on a new Trek film may be worth it.

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Gene Turnbow
Gene Turnbow

President of Krypton Media Group, Inc., radio personality and station manager of SCIFI.radio. Part writer, part animator, part musician, part illustrator, part programmer, part entrepreneur – all geek.

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