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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ On $80M Pace After $21M Friday at Box Office

J.J. Abrams space epic sequel will fall short of the $100 million Paramount was expecting

"Star Trek Into Darkness" cruised to more than $21 million at the box office on Friday and J.J Abrams’ space epic sequel is on pace for an extended weekend total of around $80 million.

That's big, but on the low end of analysts' expectations and under the $100 million that distributor Paramount had hoped to see. Saturday and Sunday will be critical, and the film received an "A" CinemaScore from first-night audiences, so word of mouth should be strong.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" has rolled up nearly $39 million since opening in 336 Imax theaters on Wednesday and in 3,672 locations nationwide on Thursday. A Friday-through-Sunday total in the $60 million range looks likely, which would be less than the $75 million that the franchise reboot "Star Trek" debuted with in 2009.

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"Star Trek Into Darkness" will knock Disney's "Iron Man 3" out of the top box office after two weeks. The Marvel superhero sequel, which two days ago crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, took in $9.5 million Friday and is on its way to a $33 million third weekend.

"The Great Gatsby" was running third and brought in $7.6 million for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow on Friday. That puts it on pace for a $25 million second week, which would be a roughly 50 percent drop from its opening last week.

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Three holdover films, Paramount's "Pain and Gain," Fox’s animated "The Croods" and Warner Bros.’ Jackie Robinson movie "42" battled for fourth and were likely to finish the weekend at around $3 million.

The overall box office was running about 15 percent ahead of the comparable week last year, when "The Avengers" led the way with a $55 million third week and "Battleship" ($25 million) and "The Dictator" ($17 million) followed. 

Paramount and director Abrams successfully re-launched the franchise in 2009 with "Star Trek," which brought in more than $255 million domestically. "Into Darkness" is expected to do even better for producers Paramount, Skydance Pictures and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, especially overseas. The production budget was $190 million and there’s been a major marketing push behind the film.

Chris Pine returns as Capt. Kirk, and is rejoined by Zach Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Lt. Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov) and Simon Pegg (Scotty). British actor Benedict Cumberbatch comes aboard as the baddie Khan. Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, along with Damon Lindelof, wrote the screenplay.