Will Star Trek Ever Be Able to Make MCU-level Money?

Will Star Trek Ever Be Able to Make MCU-level Money?
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Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek series, released first in 1966 (now known as Star Trek: The Original Series), only produced three seasons in total.

Some may have thought that a show that only ever aired over three years would never make a significant impact on popular culture. But the Star Trek franchise is not only one of the most popular television, movie, book, games, and merchandising franchises globally; it is also one of the most profitable. And yet, with such a long and diverse catalogue of content and global recognition, there have only been 13 films across the entire franchise so far.

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Compared to another franchise with just as rich a catalogue and pedigree, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has a total of 30 feature-length movies (counting the release of the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ), with an additional ten due for release over the next three years.

By contrast, Star Trek is a severely underperforming franchise which has never reached the same profitably as the MCU. But that doesn't mean it couldn't be just as profitable if it wanted to be.

How much money has each movie franchise made in comparison?

To measure each franchise's financial success as reasonably as possible, comparing each worldwide box office earnings seems most genuine. The MCU's total worldwide box office gross so far is an estimated $27.4 billion (excluding Black Panther: Wakanda Forever).

Yet Star Trek's total worldwide movie gross is only an estimated $2.2 billion. A fraction of the earnings the MCU has made from its sagas.

However, the MCU has only been making their movies for almost 15 years. Star Trek has been releasing movies for a much longer period of almost 43 years.

To compare the financial gains of either without factoring in inflation, increased movie ticket prices, etc. would be an unfair judgment. To say that the likes of Star Trek: The Motion Picture; The Voyage Home; or The Next Generation: First Contact were making profits comparable to the MCU at the time of their release would be justifiable. So if Star Trek movies were highly popular and profitable beforehand, why can't they be again?

The issues the future of Star Trek faces

Unlike the consistent stream of MCU movies produced over the past several years, which has arguably found its winning formula, Star Trek never benefited from keeping to just one direction. Its early releases began to look dated compared to its competition. Therefore, it found a new style in the more comedic presentation of The Voyage Home.

But as its cast aged, the series has been forced to find new faces and less expected storylines, such as the grittier TNG Nemesis. Plus, the latest in the franchises' movie series, the introduction of the younger rebooted Kelvin timeline, with a more action-packed focus. Yet even that has shown signs of declining with audiences.

Whatsmore, other popular franchises such as the MCU and Star Wars, have the benefits of a much wider universal audience. These films are targeted at viewers of all ages. Alternatively, Star Trek over time progressed generally with its viewers. The franchise may have begun as swashbuckling in space but has matured to include much deeper philosophies within its stories. No longer can Star Trek expect to attract high-paying fans and families of teens and under. So to expect a Star Trek movie to make the money of an MCU mega-hit is a big ask.

What is the future of Star Trek on the big screen?

The franchise may have been limited in its past, but that does not mean that Star Trek can't go boldly where it has never gone before.

Paramount continues to profit from the Star Trek brand and has been doing so steadily for years. Although its unsteady condition as a studio admittedly does not always inspire much hope for the franchise.

Yet over the past couple of years, there have been several successful series, including Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, and even the wacky yet likeable animated series Lower Decks. There is clearly still interest in Star Trek for its fans. But how can that translate to movie magic?

Simply Paramount would have to emulate the likes of the MCU, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and any other mass-marketed movie franchise made for mass appeal. A plan, therefore, would be needed for a new set of Star Trek movies that would attract more of a universal audience, just as the MCU does.

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This would probably mean including new and younger characters, exciting visual effects, fast-paced action mixed with the right amount of comedy and an appropriate level of plot that is not overly complicated. Not to mention including anything which can be merchandisable for its younger fans.

Obviously, this is possible for the Star Trek universe because we have seen elements of all these themes in their previous movies. The question is not can this be achieved by Paramount, but should it be? Trekkies are a fiercely loyal bunch who praise the franchise for its complexities and themes. If the future of Star Trek looks more like the MCU, it may make more money, but will it still be truly Star Trek at all?