Viacom has much riding on “Star Trek”

May 11, 2009

How big is “Star Trek” for Viacom?

The movie dominated the box office this weekend, taking in an estimated $72.5 million in North American ticket sales. Combined with $4 million grossed from Thursday evening’s preview screenings, “Star Trek” tallied $76.5 million in U.S. and Canadian receipts through Sunday.

Paramount could use a big hit. Last year, as the economy worsened, Paramount scaled by its film releases and cut costs by about $50 million. And this year’s first quarter didn’t offer a lot of cheer: Viacom’s entire filmed entertainment division posted an operating loss of $123 million.

“The weak economy continued to dampen the home entertainment market and Paramount was not immune to the impact,” Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said on the quarterly conference call. That put it mildly.

“Star Trek” will help the bottom line, if last weekend is any indication. But more is at stake than one quarter’s results. It’s about momentum at Paramount. The movie studio is hoping the big weekend sets up the rest of the year, with the “Transformers” sequel and a film based on “G.I. Joe” heading to the theater.

Or as The Wall Street Journal points out…

The debut of “Trek” may also mark the beginning of a new era for Paramount, which both produced and distributed the picture, which cost between $130 million and $150 million to make. In recent years, Paramount has been in reboot mode itself. In 2005, (Paramount Chief Brad Grey) was brought on board to revamp the studio after a long lackluster period, in which it experienced disappointments like “The Stepford Wives” and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

Keep an eye on:

  • The family that controls The New York Times empire has lost more than 86 percent of its fortune and may have sell their controlling stake to get out of debt (NY Post)
  • Analysts are predicting that broadcast networks will see a 10 percent to 20 percent decline in this year’s broadcast TV upfront (AdAge.com)
  • Satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp posted a better-than-expected profit on Monday as it lost fewer subscribers than most Wall Street analysts had forecast (Reuters)

(Photo: Reuters)

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