Let’s be clear as Star Trek, though. Its fans loved it rabidly, but there were not in the grand scheme enough of them, and they were constantly scrambling to try and find more. The show was going to be canceled after the first season, and then after the second season, and finally the job got done after the third. And then some ten years later because of Star Wars there was a movie, but it underperformed, and then the second movie did about as well as the first…But the fans were happy with the second one, so there was a third, which didn’t do better. It was the fourth one that finally got Star Trek out of the box. That was the biggest hit any of them, or any of the fans, or the general public had ever seen from the franchise. And a year later, there was The Next Generation. Which itself underperformed, at least as fans were concerned, until the third season, and then there was widespread acceptance. The original crew got two more movies (the fifth was the first outright bomb, but the sixth was a rebound). Then Next Generation ended and everyone and their mother thought Star Trek Generations, the big mash-up with Kirk and Picard, was going to be Infinity War…a quarter century before Infinity War. But it performed at about the average level of a Star Trek movie. Fans will tell you that happened because of the way Kirk died. Yeah nope. That’s just the box Star Trek was in
1996 was the strangest year. This was two years after Star Trek’s Infinity War. It was the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary. There were two TV shows on at the time. Both of them did special anniversary tribute episodes. Voyager did the Sulu episode. Fans at the time were begging for a Sulu TV series. They were absolutely convinced that would “save the franchise.” But nobody talks about the Voyager Sulu episode (“Flashback,” for the record). Instead, Deep Space Nine nailed it with a mash-up of a different kind, its characters inserted into the classic “Trouble with Tribbles,” and the results are still thought of warmly to this day. No one was begging for that to happen, but it did, and it was a huge success.
But the weirder thing that happened that year? Independence Day is a huge, huge hit. By 1996 standards, anyway. It’s the return of the blockbuster. But playing in front of it? A trailer for Star Trek: First Contact. And the reports are…people booing. People boo First Contact. The trailer featured unfinished footage. It plugs in the ship blown up in the last movie because they’re still working on the new one. And once people actually see the movie? Later that year? They start talking about how it’s not even a Star Trek movie, but an Alien rip-off. But you know what happens? It makes more than any Star Trek movie, aside from that fourth one. It is, for Star Trek, a huge, huge success.
Then of course the third and fourth Picard movies flop, fans grow increasingly disenchanted with the TV product, and there’s a hard stop in 2005, and there isn’t anything new until 2009. And Star Trek has its biggest movie success ever. All three of the Abrams movies make more than any Star Trek movie ever had. Fans still manage to complain. In fact, they actually start talking as if this is the worst thing that could’ve happened, that these are, especially Into Darkness, not only “not really Star Trek,” but some of the worst material the franchise has ever seen!
Star Wars in 2018 has nothing on any of that. Every time there wasn’t a movie it was because George Lucas decided there wouldn’t be. He had that luxury! People are talking now like Disney is pulling a Paramount, dumping a lot of unpopular product on the market, but until Solo (which again at this point is only a perceived flop) Star Wars had maintained or built on its prior massive success. And I wouldn’t even begin to call Solo the start of a downfall. Outside of the main sequence, it’s still a huge success, much bigger than the initial Clone Wars movie. At the time of that release, I was pretty shocked that nobody wanted to see that. It was a theatrical release, and it made…less than a hundred million. Internationally. Those average Star Trek movie successes? Bigger than that, just in the US. That’s what it looks like when a Star Wars movie is a flop. It was deemed totally unnecessary to the experience. Fans will tell you it was because of the quality, and that the TV shows were a lot better! But we’re talking Star Wars. The barometer of blockbuster success. And that movie bombed.
Disney looks at what’s happened to Solo and they’re going to take a long hard look. If this happens again? That’s when there’s a problem. You can guarantee they’re going to pull every trick they have out of their mouse hole. Everything they’ve learned from MCU.
But this is not even close to Star Trek.