LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Paramount already has hit warp speed with its high-profile relaunch of the “Star Trek” franchise.
For its first 2009 tentpole, the studio has taken the unprecedented step of rolling out a full-scale promotional tour for “Star Trek” nearly six months before its May 8 release.
Despite “Trek‘s” indisputable cultural brand and avid fan base, the filmmakers and the studio hope to bypass two potential obstacles on the way to blockbuster returns: the MySpace generation’s unfamiliarity with the series and genre, and the franchise’s typically anemic performance in the global market.
“‘Star Trek,’ especially in the foreign territories, is perceived as one thing,” director J.J. Abrams told The Hollywood Reporter. “Paramount thought it was really important to get it out there and show them that it’s another.”
On Wednesday, Abrams made a good-natured, enthusiastic, 25-minute presentation to a crowd of invited journalists, executives and studio employees in a theater on the Paramount lot. With requisite introductions, Abrams showcased the new trailer and four distinct sequences from the movie. In the past week, the “Trek” roadshow had traveled to Rome; Cologne, Germany; Madrid; Paris; London; and New York.
Teaser trailers for potential summer blockbusters often make their first appearances a year in advance; a “Trek” teaser was paired with this past summer’s tentpoles. But any real footage or extended trailers typically are reserved to make a big splash with an airing during something like the Super Bowl in February.
Yet here was Abrams -- who’s made it his modus operandi to work under cloaks of invisibility and silence -- putting not only himself but also his actors and film in the spotlight far in advance of the movie’s opening.
Since Paramount pushed back the “Trek” release from its original 2008 holiday date, the director had the advantage of finishing his movie early, unusual for rush-to-the-deadline summer tentpoles. So extensive footage -- including action sequences -- are available to preview.
Even so, Abrams admits that the front-loaded schedule was not his initial instinct.
“But I also appreciated Paramount’s argument about it,” he said. “Ultimately, the movie does the bulk of the work, for good or bad. And I felt that we had an opportunity to give people a taste of what’s to come that would really help us. Though my tendency is to keep things quiet, I thought that this was, given the way ‘Trek’ is perceived, especially overseas, this was something that could help us overcome that stigma.”
He and Paramount have a point. The foreign take on any one of the previous 10 “Trek” films never amounted to more than 37% of the worldwide total. The top-grossing entry, 1996’s “Star Trek: First Contact,” beamed up only $146 million in total, with $54 million coming from foreign markets.
The new “Trek” trailer debuted in front of “Quantum of Solace,” which hit theaters November 14, while TV spots ran during this week’s episodes of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “Fringe,” the Fox show created by Abrams and “Trek” screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
But there still is the danger of enthusiasm peaking too early, with plot points and chatter filling the Web waves months beforehand.
Abrams is aware of the risk.
”‘Jaws’ was a book before it was a movie, and people knew what happened to the Titanic,“ he added. ”You can argue that for some of the most successful movies ever, it wasn’t that their stories were secret, it’s that the experience was fun or a thrill. So I‘m praying that we’re not going to blow it by revealing some of the secrets, but you can’t have it both ways -- you can’t show the footage to try and make people understand and not give away something.
“The good news is, there’s so much that we’re not saying. I think that the risk is ultimately worth it.”
Paramount leads summer 2009 with “Trek,” followed by “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” in late June and “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra” in August. The studio has a lot riding on its “Trek” reboot but can take some comfort in the fact that Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci scared up $395 million worldwide for Paramount in 2006 with their “Mission: Impossible III.”
But now that the Klingon is out of the bag, where do the filmmakers go from here?
“Oh, there’s a whole crazy campaign that is going to ...,” Abrams said, trailing off. “It’s insane. We have a life-size Enterprise, but I‘m not allowed to talk about it.”