It's Foreign To Hollywood

It isn’t the case that the Enterprise enterprise is daring to go where no movie marketer has gone before –- in fact, the trend has been accelerating for years -– but the fact that the latest Star Trek offering opened in Europe last night two weeks before its debut on these federated shores tells us something many may not have realized. “Captain Kirk doesn’t travel well,” as the New York Times’ Brook Barnes reports in an extensive piece on the international hoopla surrounding the roll-out of Paramount’s $90 million “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

“Foreign moviegoers for one reason or another have never fully embraced the swaggering Starfleet captain and his oddball crew,” Barnes reports. “That is a major problem for Paramount Pictures now that international ticket sales account for up to 80% of a movie’s total gross.”



The international marketing budget will be 35% higher than director J.J. Abrams’ first take on the storied franchise in 2009, Barnes tells us, which grossed about $280 million domestically but only $139 million overseas. The studio has therefore “asked stars to do an unusual amount of globetrotting and staggered the release dates to shield ‘Into Darkness’ from competition,” Barnes writes.

And so it was, as the Independent’s Albertina Lloyd reveals, that “new recruit Benedict Cumberbatch joined [Simon] Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, director J.J. Abrams and other stars of ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ at the premiere in London's Leicester Square” last night. “Fans went crazy for the ‘Sherlock’ star, who plays villain John Harrison in the new sequel, giving him the loudest screams as he arrived on the white carpet, and the rest of the cast hailed his acting as out of this world.”

That bit of reporting may not be quite as pithy or influential as a Walter Winchell endorsement, but in the age of social media, it will have to get the job done. And there are other titillating details in the piece, too, such as: “Pegg revealed that the cast enjoyed a wild night out during filming.” 

Paramount, a Viacom studio, has been purposefully restraining itself, it appears, from letting too much information about the film squelch interest before it hit the big screen.

 “J.J. Abrams has done a pretty great job keeping ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ details under wraps, even during this last-ditch deluge of marketing materials, but little bits and pieces have been trickling out here and there,” writes Angie Han, who rounds up “our first look at an unmasked Abrams-style Klingon … along with three TV spots, another clip, and a bunch of images” from the movie on

(The re-appearance of Klingons, with a new look no less, has been a hot discussion among dedicated Trekkies for some time. And now that there has been more than a fleeting glimpse, look for earnest debates such as the one Mike Sampson raises on Should Klingons wear earrings? Details such as this can really keep a fan base humming.)

Meanwhile, for anyone wondering about such mundane concerns as how critics are reacting to the film, Yahoo! Movies’ Bryan Enk reports “it appears that J.J. Abrams and his team have done a bang-up job on following up their much-beloved, game-changing 2009 reboot. Several critics are proclaiming the ‘Trek’ sequel as a solid piece of summer blockbuster entertainment, if not exactly a true classic ….” 

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times’ Michael Cieply reported that “Hollywood’s global business strategy, which counts on huge ticket sales in China for high-budget fantasies in 3-D and large-screen Imax formats, is coming unhinged.” 

As recently as last year, formulaic blockbusters like “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” were huge hits in the world’s second-largest movie market, Cieply tells us. But this year, a combination of government muscle and what some see as a “rapid evolution in the tastes of Chinese audiences” had tinsel town moguls worried and all eyes were upon “Iron Man 3,” which opened yesterday. 

As it turns out, the Marvel-comic-superhero-turned-movie-star took in $21 million, setting a new box office record in China.

“The appeal may have something to do with additional scenes added into the Chinese version of the film,” reports CNN’s Sophie Brown. “The extra four minutes of footage feature product placement for a Chinese-branded milk drink and two new characters, Dr. Wu and his assistant, played by top Chinese actors Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing, respectively.”

Iron Man 3” will also be in a theater near you this weekend, and it has opened to generally favorable reviews stateside. 

“New director (and co-writer) Shane Black has managed to change this billion-dollar-plus franchise's tone for the better while keeping the same actor [Robert Downey Jr.] as Tony Stark,” writes the Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan. “Call it a spiritual reboot.”

The flick “is not just a summer Blockbuster, it is also a advertising behemoth,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which has assembled a video montage of clips starring Downey from spots for brands such as Subway, Audi and Verizon’s FiOS. 

Proving, I suppose, that you can never tell how and where spirituality may strike.

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