"Star Trek Into Darkness" zoomed to $84 million in its North American debut this weekend and knocked "Iron Man 3" out of the top spot, but couldn't ascend to box-office hyper-space.
J.J. Abrams space epic sequel's opening was the year's third-best, but its $70.5 million three-day total was less than the $75 million that "Star Trek" debuted to four years ago. And its four-day total was well short of the $100 million that Paramount, Skydance Pictures and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions had hoped to bring in.
"Into Darkness" opened in 33 foreign markets as well this weekend, and the $40 million that the film brought in took some of the sting out of the domestic results. It has taken in more than $80 million from overseas, and $164.5 million worldwide.
"The good news is, when you have a really good movie like this one, the word of mouth is going to bring the audience in over time," Paramount's head of distribution Don Harris told TheWrap Sunday. "Expectations aside, big-picture we're in a very good place, particularly when you consider how well it's doing overseas."
Disney's "Iron Man 3," which last week crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, was second with $35.2 million in its third week. It's now made $337.1 million domestically, $736.2 million overseas and has a global total of $1.07 billion -- ninth-best ever.
"The Great Gatsby" finished third with $23.4 million. That's a 53 percent drop from its opening week for Baz Luhrmann's take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel which has taken in just over $90 million since its debut for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow.
Paramount opened "Star Trek Into Darkness" with early screenings Wednesday night at 336 Imax theaters, and rolled it out in 3,868 locations across the country on Thursday, after moving its opening up a day from Friday. The extra day -- which brought in a little more than $13 million -- didn't help that much. It made $22 million Friday and another $27 million on Saturday.
"Into Darkness" skewed male at 64 percent, and surprising older. Just 25 percent of the audience was under 25 years of age.
"I think a part of that is when you have an audience that is invested in this franchise all the way back to the 1960s TV show, you're going to see plenty of long-time fans turn out. But 'Star Trek' really captured a whole new group of fans, and they'll be coming out."
The film played well in 3D and in Imax theaters. Together, they accounted for 45 percent of the first-weekend grosses. Imax alone brought in 16 percent of the total.
"We have four weeks in Imax and I think that's going to be a big part of how this movie plays out at the box office," Harris said.
Paramount and director Abrams successfully re-launched the franchise in 2009 with "Star Trek," which brought in more than $255 million domestically. "Into Darkness" could do better than that, with overseas grosses expected to be much higher this time around.
The stakes are high: The production budget on "Into Darkness" was $190 million and there's been a major marketing push behind the film. The film was reviewed well -- it has an 87 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- and opening night audiences gave it an "A" CinemaScore.
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.
The overall box office is heating up.
This weekend 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.
And next week, Universal's "Fast & Furious 6" and Warner Bros.' "The Hangover Part III" arrive, along with Fox's animated "Epic."