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This article concerns itself with the general production and performances of the official Star Trek theatrical feature films as produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures, having been the full rights title holder from 1979 (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) through 2002 (Star Trek Nemesis), and as licensee from 2009 (Star Trek) through 2016 (Star Trek Beyond), thereby constituting what is currently known as the "Star Trek film franchise".

Within that franchise a further distinction is often made between the two prime universe film franchises, to wit,

and the third, alternate reality or "Kelvin-timeline", film franchise,


As a franchise, the Star Trek films were almost conceived as an afterthought in the wake of the stupefying success of the very first Star Wars installment in 1977. The resulting movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, came nowhere close to living up to the (too) high expectations of studio executives, who subsequently decided to kill off the fledgling Star Trek film franchise right there and then. The highest conglomerate executive though, Gulf+Western owner and CEO Charlie Bluhdorn, saw it differently and personally ordered his Paramount subordinates to pursue the franchise further. Having ordained the original film production in the first place, it was therefore Bluhdorn in person who in effect not only conceived the Star Trek film franchise, but also ensured its continuation as well (for further particulars, see: main article).

In 2023, it was announced that the franchise would have its first made-for-TV film aka "TV movie", Star Trek: Section 31, produced for its own streaming service Paramount+. [1]

The Original Series films[]

Films which feature the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series.

Title Film # TOS # Stardate US Release Date Critical Reception[1] Domestic Gross Foreign Gross Worldwide Gross[2] Estimated budget Profitability Gross[3]
Star Trek: The Motion Picture 1 1 7410.2–7414.1 1979-12-07 53% $82,258,456 $56,741,544 $139,000,000 $35,000,000[4] 397%
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 2 2 8130.3–8141.6 1982-06-04 86% $78,912,963 $18,087,037 $97,000,000 $11,000,000 882%[5]
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock 3 3 8210.3 1984-06-01 78% $76,471,046 $10,528,954 $87,000,000 $17,000,000 512%
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home 4 4 8390.0 1986-11-26 82% $109,713,132 $23,286,868 $133,000,000 $25,000,000 532%
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 5 5 8454.1 1989-06-09 22% $52,210,049 $17,999,951 $70,210,000 $27,800,000 253%
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country 6 6 9521.6–9529.1. 1991-12-06 82% $74,888,996 $22,000,000 $96,888,996 $30,000,000 323%
TOS Totals: 67% (avg) $474,454,642 $148,644,354 $623,098,996 $145,800,000 427% (avg)

The Next Generation films[]

These are films that feature the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unlike the preceding TOS films, these did not carry sequel numbers – such as "Star Trek VII", "Star Trek VIII", "Star Trek IX", or "Star Trek X" – except in pre-production. However, these numbers do appear on newer DVD covers.

Title Film # TNG # Stardate US Release Date Critical Reception Domestic Gross Foreign Gross Worldwide Gross Estimated budget Profitability Gross
Star Trek Generations 7 1 48632.4–48650.1 1994-11-18 48% $75,671,125 $42,400,000 $118,071,125 $35,000,000 337%[6]
Star Trek: First Contact 8 2 50893.5 1996-11-22 92% $92,027,888 $54,000,000 $146,027,888 $45,000,000 324%
Star Trek: Insurrection 9 3 52200 (approx) 1998-12-11 54% $70,187,658 $42,400,000 $112,587,658 $58,000,000 194%
Star Trek Nemesis 10 4 56844.9 2002-12-13 38% $43,254,409 $24,058,417 $67,312,826 $60,000,000 112%
TNG Totals: 58% (avg) $281,141,080 $162,858,417 $443,999,497 $198,000,000 224% (avg)

Alternate reality films[]

Films which feature different versions of the TOS characters portrayed by a new cast, and set in an alternate reality from earlier films and series.

Title Film # AR # Stardate US Release Date Critical Reception Domestic Gross Foreign Gross Worldwide Gross Estimated budget Profitability Gross
Star Trek 11 1 2233.04–2258.42 2009-05-08 94% $257,730,019 $127,950,427 $385,680,446 $150,000,000 257%
Star Trek Into Darkness 12 2 2259.55–2260.133 2013-05-16 84% $228,778,661 $238,602,923 $467,381,584 $190,000,000 246%
Star Trek Beyond 13 3 2263.02–2263.04 2016-07-22 86% $158,848,340 $184,623,476 $343,471,816 $185,000,000 185%
AR Totals: 88% (avg) $645,357,020 $551,176,826 $1,196,533,846 $525,000,000 227% (avg)

Television movies[]

Title Film # Stardate US Release Date Critical Reception Estimated budget
Star Trek: Section 31 14 TBA TBA TBA TBA


  1. Approval rates as calculated by the critical film review website Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. These figures include worldwide box-office takes only. Every other form of revenue, such as for merchandise, home media format sales, rentals, television rights and the like, are excluded from the figures. Revenue and cost figures as submitted by the studio to the film website IMDb
  3. Percentages above 100% indicate profit, below 100%, loss and at 100% means the production exactly recouped its production costs.
  4. In the 1980s and 1990s, a figure of approximately $45 million dollar was widely propagated in numerous publications, including those licensed by Paramount Pictures. For a treatment on the apparent discrepancy, please see: The Motion Picture: Costs and revenues.
  5. The profitability of Wrath of Khan is flattered, as that production made use of a substantial amount of special and visual effects assets, such as studio models, props, sets and even complete visual effects sequences produced for the previous film, and which do not show up in its production costs. This also holds true, though to a lesser degree, for the subsequent four films.
  6. Produced back-to-back with its television progenitor and therefore with much of its setup already in place, the profitability of Generations is, like that of The Wrath of Khan, also somewhat flattered, as that production too made use of a substantial amount of special and visual effects assets, such as studio models, costumes, props, and sets produced for the television properties, which do not show up in the budget.

Unrealized Star Trek films[]

Besides the above referenced films which had eventually seen a theatrical release, Paramount has over the decades embarked on the development of several other Star Trek film projects as well, they however, ultimately abandoned in various stages of development for a variety of reasons. Costs incurred for these unrealized projects were usually charged against the subsequent film project that was realized. (see also: below)

For further particulars on these abandoned film projects, see: Undeveloped Star Trek projects.


Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) reunites the Star Trek: The Original Series cast aboard the original USS Enterprise, refurbished after its five-year mission as documented in the television series. The story was originally conceived as the pilot episode of the aborted Star Trek: Phase II series, in which the now-Admiral Kirk and crew must engage with a powerful, threatening force that is heading directly towards Earth.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) together form a loose trilogy beginning with the reintroduction of an old enemy from a popular TOS episode ("Space Seed") who resumes his conflict with Kirk in epic fashion, leading to the creation of the planet Genesis, the death of Spock and his subsequent "burial" on Genesis, the destruction of the Enterprise during Kirk's efforts to reunite Spock's regenerated body with his katra, and ultimately a time-travel adventure to 1986 aboard a captured Klingon vessel (HMS Bounty) in order to save Earth from destruction.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) moves Kirk, demoted back to captain as a result of defying Starfleet orders in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and crew onto the new USS Enterprise-A, which is hijacked by a renegade Vulcan (Sybok) who pilots it to the center of the galaxy in an attempt to find the source of creation.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) sees Kirk and crew attempting to prevent derailment of the Federation/Klingon peace talks by conspirators from both sides. As well as bringing the TOS cast to its retirement, the film also ties up various threads first established in the series (most notably, the conflict between the Federation and the Klingons) and paves the way for the storylines of Star Trek: The Next Generation, set seventy years later. Produced during the fall of the communist Soviet Union, the film's plot may be regarded as a metaphor for those events and the effect they had on international relations at that time.

Star Trek Generations (1994) brings the cast of TNG to the big screen, set less than a year after the end of the series ("All Good Things...") and filmed straight after the completion of its last episodes. Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise-D must try to stop a brilliant scientist (Tolian Soran) from committing an act of genocide in order to enter the Nexus, a mysterious hedonistic realm in which time has no meaning. Appearances by three of the TOS cast (Kirk, Scott, and Chekov) and the heroic death of Kirk who joins Picard by means of the Nexus, served to "pass the torch" from the old generation to the next; the appearance of recurring enemies Lursa and B'Etor and the revelation of their fate provides a key link with the TNG series. The film also includes the destruction of the Enterprise-D.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996) brings back the TNG cast in their first truly independent big screen adventure aboard the new USS Enterprise-E. Picard and his crew are pitted against their deadliest foe from the series, the Borg, who travel back in time to prevent the first warp flight by Zefram Cochrane.

In Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), Picard and crew discover a covert effort by Starfleet, in co-operation with the belligerent Son'a, to relocate the inhabitants of a "fountain of youth" planet. Standing by his morals, Picard must take up arms against the Federation to save paradise.

Star Trek Nemesis (2002) sees Picard and the Enterprise ordered to investigate the sudden fall of the Romulan government, replaced by a leader from their neighboring race, the Remans. The dark secret of this new leader, Shinzon, brings Picard into conflict in a way he never thought possible, and culminates in a fight to save Earth from a terrible weapon – at great cost. With the death of Data and the departure of Riker, Troi, and Beverly Crusher from the Enterprise, this film marked the end of the TNG cast's adventures (until Star Trek: Picard, nearly two decades later). Much as with the (chronological) final big screen appearance of the original cast, which laid the foundations of peace between the Federation and the Klingons, this film implies the establishment of an alliance between the Federation and the Romulans, enemies throughout the TNG era just as the Klingons had been in TOS.

Star Trek (2009) creates a new timeline in the Star Trek franchise, which is tied directly to the prime universe, effecting a return to the TOS era, albeit one populated by an all-new cast of actors. It also features a completely new look, and remains in-universe by explaining all changes as being inadvertently caused by time-traveling Romulan villain Nero. This film focuses on younger versions of James T. Kirk, Spock, and the crew and showcases their very first mission aboard the USS Enterprise as they work together to stop the renegade Nero in his vengeful rampage to destroy Federation planets.

The sequel Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) picks up a year after the first film of the new timeline, where the crew is tested as they are sent to apprehend John Harrison, a traitor and mass murderer, and uncover corruption and a conspiracy to militarize Starfleet from within.

Star Trek Beyond (2016) picks up three years after the second film, where the crew is in the third year of its five-year mission. An encounter with an alien swarm, headed by the mysterious and powerful Krall, has devastating consequences for the Enterprise and crew, and reveals a serious threat to the Federation.

Performance summary[]

Domestically, combined and not taking inflation into account, the Star Trek features have grossed a little over US$1.4 billion. Prior to the release of Star Trek, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had grossed more than the other films, coming in at US$109,713,132, while Star Trek: First Contact had the largest-grossing opening weekend of all the films. The alternate reality Star Trek film surpassed both of these records, but was itself surpassed by its Star Trek Into Darkness sequel. [2]

Using the figures in the above specified tables, a "Top 5" worldwide performance record for the films as of 2016 is summarized in the table below, which hold a few surprises. The costs are, as expected, in accordance with the sequence the films were produced in, with The Motion Picture, being the sole exception due to various reasons. Rather surprising is that the best received films are not always also the highest grossing, The Voyage Home being the most consistent one. However, the biggest surprise in this regard, the bad press the film received in the 1980s and 1990s notwithstanding – among others by the studio itself, who considered the film a failure at the time – is that The Motion Picture as one of the worst received films, is not only the highest grossing Original Crew film world-wide, but concurrently also one of the most profitable films in the franchise. Likewise, but on the other end of the spectrum, Beyond became one of the best received films, but also the second-worst in terms of gross profitability.

The table shows that the TNG films were the least successful ones of the franchise in critical and financial terms, First Contact being the sole positive exception – even becoming the highest worldwide grossing Star Trek-prime film – the apparent profitability of Generations (see that film's footnote above) notwithstanding. In terms of gross profitability, the six Original Series films remain to date the most successful ones by far.

However, while there is a correlation between costs and profitability, the real surprise lies in the recent lack of positive correlation between gross revenues and profitability. That Nemesis and Insurrection occupy the first and third place respectively in the worst profitability ranking comes hardly as a surprise, considering their poor performance at the box office. But a break occurred in the correlation with the three alternate reality films, which were the most successful in terms of box office revenues of the franchise by far, but which also rank among the least profitable, even losing, ones – Star Trek Beyond in particular, taking second place in the worst profitability ranking – making it appear that the more successful a film is at the box office, the worse its profitability becomes.

The significant jump in production budget of 29% (over ten times the official inflation rate for the period 1996-1998) between the films First Contact and Insurrection, validated Adam Lebowitz's assertion that the technique of computer-generated imagery (CGI) for producing visual effects, which was used almost exclusively for the latter film and contrary to popular belief, is not cheaper than the traditional way of producing these. "A lot of people say, 'CGI is a lot cheaper, isn't it,' but the way I like to think of it is that CGI is not cheaper necessarily, but you get a lot more for your money and you can tweak it a lot more.", Lebowitz has stated. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, p. 47) If anything has exemplified Lebowitz's assessment, then it must have been the number of staffers Industrial Light & Magic had employed on their Star Trek projects; whereas The Search for Spock "only" needed 42 staffers, the staff-count for Star Trek (2009) had burgeoned to no less than 315, virtually all of them working as digital specialists.

Star Trek Into Darkness marks the first time that a Star Trek film performed better in the foreign markets than the home market, confirming an industry trend that has started in the early 2000s. [3]

As already stated above, the 2016 film Star Trek Beyond, even though it even surpassed its predecessor critically, performed catastrophically at the box-office (see also below) which became a major consideration for the cancellation in January 2019 of the planned fourth alternate reality film, slated to start production in that year.

Ranking per 2017 Best reception Worst reception Highest worldwide gross Lowest worldwide gross Most costly Least costly Most profitable gross Least profitable gross
1 Star Trek Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Star Trek Into Darkness Star Trek Nemesis Star Trek Into Darkness Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Star Trek Nemesis
2 Star Trek: First Contact Star Trek Nemesis Star Trek Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Star Trek Beyond Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Star Trek Beyond
3 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Star Trek: The Motion Picture Star Trek Beyond Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Star Trek Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Star Trek: Insurrection
4 Star Trek Beyond Star Trek Generations Star Trek: First Contact Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Star Trek Nemesis Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Star Trek: The Motion Picture Star Trek Into Darkness
5 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Star Trek: Insurrection Star Trek: The Motion Picture Star Trek: Insurrection Star Trek: Insurrection Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Star Trek Generations Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Note: When inflation adjusted, a slightly different ranking in costs and revenues might occur, but this has no influence on the profitability ranking as it is a relational calculation of costs and revenues. For the sake of expedience the absolute figures as listed in the above tables are used.

Gross vs net profitability[]

It must be understood that when box-office earnings surpass the direct production budget (thereby achieving gross profitability), it does not automatically mean that a Hollywood studio has gone "into (net) profit", i.e. meaning that the studio has now funding available for investments, dividend disbursements to shareholders and third party investors, executive bonuses, royalties, and the like. Aside from the direct production costs, aka the production budget, the studio also needs to cover costs which, for legal as well as practical reasons, can not be directly assigned to a particular motion picture production and which are commonly referred to as "indirect" or "production overhead" costs, in parlance usually abbreviated to "overhead". The most obvious overhead elements consist of:

  • Operations/Management costs: These are incurred in order to maintain a studio, such as the costs for the upkeep of real estate and equipment, as well as the salaries for personnel who have studio tenure, such as executive, accountancy, administrative, technical and marketing staffers. The actual production staffers on any motion picture project, are contracted on a per production basis, and their salaries are therefore directly assignable to the production budget. (See also in this regard: Desilu Studios.)
  • Distribution costs: These entail the box office percentages, distributors and theater owners charge the studio for showing their production to the public, in order to operate their own businesses. Since it is never known beforehand how many theaters will agree to show a studio production, these costs are traditionally considered overhead.
  • Marketing/Promotion costs: While the average "Trekkie" might mistakenly believe that any Star Trek live-action production sells itself, this is a viewpoint emphatically not shared by Paramount. In effect, the official standpoint taken by Paramount is to dismiss Trekdom altogether, deeming it too inconsequential, both in scope and in size, to warrant the consideration of any possible Star Trek live-action (both film and television) production development in and of itself. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, pp. 139-140) Paramount therefore treats each Star Trek production as they would any other, each required to attract a renewed viewership, and each therefore warranting considerable promotional efforts. While a general overall promotion strategy might be devised before the start of a production, the nature and extent is usually fleshed out over the course of the production (if only for the fact that trailers and commercials have to wait for footage to have been actually shot), meaning that cost totals can not be determined with any measure of objectivity beforehand, therefore causing them to be subordinated under overhead for practicality. Traditionally, marketing costs are a substantial part of the overhead, having inflated considerably from the early 2000s onward; David Gerrold has reported that these costs for The Motion Picture were already estimated at US$10-$20 million, accounting for a third to half of over-production budget expenditures alone, which, for those times, was already exceptionally high. (Starlog, issue 30, p. 37)
    To an extent, Paramount's stance has validated itself by the considerable success The Voyage Home, First Contact, and the first two alternate universe films in particular have enjoyed, as these attracted a viewership (though not necessarily new fans) that went well above and beyond traditional Trekdom alone, as was evidenced by their respective outlying box office takes. Even more apparent, but then at the opposite end of the spectrum, became the validity, when Paramount failed to attract renewed viewership for Star Trek Beyond; While the film was in general favorably received by critics and traditional Trekdom alike, the mere fact that others – enjoying a plethora of other alternatives by that time, most notably those of the by-then relaunched Star Wars and the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchises – failed to show up at the cinemas, made Beyond at that time the second all-time worst performing Star Trek film for Paramount in terms of profitability. This became a major consideration for the decision to cancel the fourth alternate universe film in early January 2019, reportedly because of relaunched Star Wars, thereby conceivably cancelling the entire alternate universe story line all together. [4]
  • Sundry aka Unforeseen costs: While largely self-explanatory, these costs can also include actual production costs incurred after principal photography – traditionally seen as the "Production" stage of a film production – has finished, which were not foreseen when the production budget was calculated. For example, its visual effects sequences slated to be entirely produced with CGI, Star Trek: Insurrection was nearing completion in post-production when it was decided that for some key effects sequences the digital technique would not do, and that additional visual effects companies had to be brought in at the last minute to remedy the situation. Traditionally, the production budget is then not adjusted upward in these particular circumstances, with the additional expenditure booked as "unforeseen". Something similar had actually already occurred two decades earlier with The Motion Picture. When the February 1979 visual effects debacle took place after principal photography had wrapped, new effects companies had to be brought in by the studio at the eleventh hour to (re)produce these effects from scratch. In this specific case however, the studio decided to have the additional costs of approximately US$10 million included in its publicly divulged production budget as part of questionable studio politics, explaining the discrepancy between the official production budget listed above, and the widely propagated and best known one of US$45 million. (see: The Motion Picture: Costs and revenues) Reshooting scenes after-the-fact for which principal cast had to be recalled, also fall under this heading, as was the case with Generations and Insurrection.
  • Corporate taxes: Self-explanatory.

The traditional Hollywood rule of thumb of determining the point when a motion picture production becomes net profitable for a studio, has been the application of a multiplier to the direct production budget, or as Gerrold has further explained, "(…)a film has to earn two to three times as much as it costs to make, before it breaks even. Otherwise, you have lost your shirt." (Starlog, issue 30, p. 37) Applying an average multiplier of 2.5 to the above listed figures, or achieving 250% of the production budget in box-office takes, reveal that two of the Star Trek films have barely broke even (unsurprisingly including The Final Frontier, but surprisingly the 2009 blockbuster outing as well), whereas the last two Next Generation films, as well as Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond have actually lost the studio money, substantial losses at that in the cases of Insurrection, Nemesis, and Beyond.

One obvious rationale for the lack of profitability of the alternate reality films lies in the circumstance that Paramount had, together with Warner Bros. in a US$60 million deal, partnered up with Bad Robot Productions in 2006 for the development of its motion picture projects, those of Star Trek included. [5] Therefore, in addition to the undisclosed, but undoubtedly hefty license fees Paramount had to pay franchise owner CBS Corporation, all income derived from the box offices takes needed now to be shared with a major co-producer as well, where there had been none before, cutting deeply in the gross profits. The fact that Bad Robot withdrew from the partnership in November 2018, was in effect one of the other major considerations for Paramount to cancel the fourth alternate reality film in January 2019. [6]

As a whole, the four decades old film franchise performance of all thirteen films combined yields the following, showing that the film franchise has been net profitable for the studio, albeit modestly so, mostly because of the alternate reality films as they involved he largest amount of money. When applying the 2.5 multiplier, an approximately 4.2% net return on investment remains, until the 2010s not even enough to cancel out inflation and then easily attainable by just putting your money safely away in a bank savings account. The studio therefore had to mostly rely on revenues stemming from other spin-off franchise elements in all forms and formats, such as television rights and merchandise, in order to show shareholders/investors a more healthy rate of return.

Critical Reception Domestic Gross Foreign Gross Worldwide Gross Budget (est.) Profitability Gross
71% (avg) 1,400,952,742 862,679,597 2,263,632,339 868,800,000 261%

It is in this regard that another Paramount production deserves a mention, the 1997 eleven Academy Award winning Titanic, served by such Star Trek alumni as Robert Legato, Don Pennington, James Horner, and Tony Meininger. With a worldwide gross of US$2.2 billion – being the very first film in motion picture history to breach the two billion mark – against a production budget of US$200 million, it did achieve a (for the times) mind-boggling 1,100% gross profitability. This was especially astounding when the amount of money involved was considered, as that film alone, grossing the same amount as all thirteen Star Trek films combined, netted the studio US$1.7 billion in (net) profit, that is, in theory at least when discounting the below-mentioned "Hollywood accounting" phenomenon. [7] The film stands to this very day out as Paramount's biggest success in its entire history by far, as well as being universally considered as one of the motion picture industry's greatest triumphs for that matter. Like it had with The Motion Picture, the studio had staked its very continued existence on Titanic, in the process forced to seek out 20th Century Fox as a production production partner (see also: The Motion Picture: Costs and revenues).

Still, while the rationale behind the net profitability determining methodology is valid, the methodology itself has proven to be susceptible to figures manipulation, leading up to the infamous "Hollywood accounting" phenomenon, possibly explaining not only the apparent high profitability of The Wrath of Khan and Generations – an absolute rarity where "Hollywood accounting" is concerned as explained below – but also the recent and apparent lack of profitability of the alternate reality films. It should concurrently be noted that additional revenues, derived from later merchandise, television rights and home media sales, are traditionally discounted by Hollywood studios in their public performance assessments for a film, meaning that even loss generating productions have the potential to turn net profitable in the long run. However, the circumstance that Bad Robot had, through its many subsidiaries, negotiated a substantial say – and thus a part of the revenue stream – in the resultant merchandise, including the home media formats, meant that that potential had for Paramount been considerably diminished as well where the alternate reality films were concerned.

Hollywood accounting[]

"Hollywood accounting", or "Hollywood bookkeeping" as it is also referred to, is a particularly nefarious phenomenon in the motion picture industry which entails that, simply put, production stakeholders, such as shareholders, actors, producers, writers, production companies, local governments, and the like, who have entered in a net profit sharing agreement with the studio, are essentially "defrauded" as much as possible out of their legally entitled shares by means of untoward bookkeeping methods. These methods typically entail inflating expenses such as production, distribution, and marketing (a very popular one with studios, as these, whether or not justified, have gone truly through the roof from the early 2000s onward), overhead and, most notoriously, the production budget "sundry costs" with as much elements as possible, not rarely utterly undue.

The industry phenomenon is to date deeply ingrained, widespread, persistent, and pervasive and by no means limited to Paramount Pictures or film productions alone, as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry found out to his detriment after he discovered he too was on the receiving end of this phenomenon when he signed both his 18 May 1965 Star Trek: The Original Series and 1978 The Motion Picture net profit sharing deals. "The greatest science fiction in show biz is in the accounting", a chagrined Roddenberry declared when he ordered his attorney Leonard Maizlish to start legal proceedings against the studio in 1981, after being faced with the studio's emphatic assertions that he still was not entitled to his share of the profits since the Original Series was ostensibly still deeply "in the red", despite its wildly successful decade-long run in syndication. (Starlog, issue 43, p. 14) A particularly notorious instance was, for example, Lucasfilm, who in 2009 still maintained that their 1983 third Star Wars installment, Return of the Jedi, "has never gone into profit", despite having earned a recorded US$475 million against a production budget of US$32.5 million (constituting a whopping 1,462% gross profitability, but while impressive, involving far less money than the above-mentioned Titanic) by that point, shortchanging several actors who had unwisely entered into a net profit sharing agreement. [8]

Paramount itself got caught in the act when it was successfully sued by screen writer Art Buchwald (thereby succeeding where Maizlish, on behalf of Roddenberry, had seemingly failed seven years earlier) who found himself in a similar predicament in the case of Paramount's 1988 motion picture Coming to America (starring Eddie Murphy), which grossed over ten times its budget of US$39 million. It was actually this case that brought the "Hollywood accounting" phenomenon to the full awareness of the general public. Finding itself highly scrutinized by the media at the time, Paramount was ultimately ordered by the courts to settle for US$900,000 in 1992. [9]

However, as it is still very much a gray area in corporate accounting law, it has, despite the adverse court ruling, not in the least deterred Paramount, or any other Hollywood studio for that matter, to continue with the practice unabated, to the point where it has become near-pandemic in the 2000s. Several Hollywood reporters have recorded that few, if any, of the biggest box-office successes of the past decades had, as of 2010, actually turned in an official net studio profit, that is, on paper at least. [10] [11] This actually made Hollywood studios one of the very worst properties to invest in, as many shareholders and third-party investors can now attest to. Despite a class-action brought against the entire industry before a Federal Court in 1996, [12] the financial gains apparently still far outweigh the costs of any possible legal litigation. The three alternate universe films, Star Trek, Into Darkness, and Beyond, for example, are officially reported as among the least profitable, even losing, Star Trek productions by Paramount, despite grossing close to US$1.2 billion dollar between the three of them, as specified above.

Stakeholders who still do enter into a profit sharing agreement have, however, learned the lessons of their unfortunate predecessors, and do so on the basis of gross profit (as indeed tax authorities have always done), instead of net profits, as gross profit is determined by only charging directly assignable production costs to the revenues under accounting laws. And indeed, creator Roddenberry himself did not repeat the mistakes he made back in 1965 and 1978, when he signed a profit sharing deal with Paramount in 1986 for Star Trek: The Next Generation, where it was stipulated that he was to receive 35% of the adjusted gross profits derived from the series. [13](X)

Studios countered with transferring as much production unrelated expenditures to the (in)direct production costs as they possibly could get away with legally. Notorious in this respect is the transfer of the substantial executive bonuses, which, rightfully, should be paid from the net profits, to production overhead, from which regular salaries are paid. The even more savvy stakeholders will try to negotiate a gross revenue sharing, aka "box-office take", agreement, but this is, of course, vehemently opposed by Hollywood studios and is only reserved for the few very biggest and most powerful of the Hollywood stars, [14] such as Tom Cruise – who successfully reinitialized the Mission: Impossible franchise not only as the star, but as a co-producing company as well under which he receives his box-office takes [15] – and which Roddenberry was most certainly not.

In regard to the Star Trek films, it is known that Paramount has charged incurred costs for undeveloped film projects against either the production budget, the overhead, or both of subsequent films that were realized, most notably The Motion Picture and The Undiscovered Country. While the act is in itself not illegal, it is a practice not commonly followed in most other industries (the pharmaceutical industry standing out as a notorious exception) and actually debatable from a business economics point of view; research and development costs of projects that do not come to fruition are usually written off and are commonly charged against the balance sheets of corporations. This is a sound generally accepted accounting principle for businesses (as stated in any business economics textbook and where the principles are known under their acronym GAAP) as it prevents unwarranted cost price inflation with undue elements – thereby avoiding pollution of pre-production viability assessments – for products that do come to fruition. Paramount's divergent actions therefore can be construed as an instance of Hollywood accounting.

The very rare positive – as in inflating the profitability instead of the costs – applications of Hollywood accounting by the studio executive echelons in the cases of The Wrath of Khan and Generations were motivated by internal studio politics. In the former case the goal was to convince the outside world that Gene Roddenberry was a complete and utter failure as a film producer after his dismal performance on The Motion Picture, so that the studio seemed justified to sideline the Star Trek creator for any future project once and for all, (See also in this regard: The Motion Picture: Costs and revenues) whereas the latter case was intended to convince shareholders and investors that the Next Generation film franchise would potentially be as succesfull, or even more so, as the Original Crew film franchise had been. Both instances of positive Hollywood accounting succeeded admirably in their intended goals.

The 2006 separation of the Star Trek television and film productions under two newly-formed independent holding companies, resulting in that Paramount Pictures, now a holding of (new) Viacom, had to pay licensing fees to newly-formed CBS Corporation in order to produce subsequent Star Trek (and Mission: Impossible [16]) films, aggravated the situation. A closely guarded trade secret, the amount of the fees were now a newly-added part to the production budget/overhead which was not there previously, and might partly explain the apparent lack of net profitability of the three alternate universe films. Some critics have surmised that this had been part of the split considerations all along, somewhat supported by the fact that both new entities have remained under the ultimate ownership and control of holding conglomerate National Amusements (NAI), and to an extent implicitly conceded as such in actuality by NAI owner and CEO Sumner Redstone, who had expressed his desire to "unlock value" by boosting stock value – for the CBS shareholders that is, not for those of (new) Viacom/Paramount, where the licensing issue is concerned – and earning potential of the at the time faster growing soon-to-be "new" Viacom. [17] [18]

Incidentally, since NAI's core business is the operation of one of the largest chains of movie theaters in the USA, the fact that the costs they charged Paramount (which they own) for showing their productions appear in the Paramount's income statements as well, can also be construed as an instance of cost-price inflating Hollywood accounting.


In a November 2015 Wired article discussing the recent popularity of shared universes on film, Paramount Motion Pictures Group president Marc Evans acknowledged the possibility of spin-off films. He said, "I often think about the areas of the Star Trek universe that haven’t been taken advantage of. Like, I’ll be ridiculous with you, but what would Star Trek: Zero Dark Thirty look like? Where is the SEAL Team Six of the Star Trek universe? That fascinates me." [19]

On April 25, 2018, it was confirmed that two Star Trek films were in development. [20] However, on 10 January 2019, pursuant the dismal profitability performance of Beyond and a little over ten months later, Forbes magazine reported that the fourth, yet untitled, Kelvin-timeline film had been canceled, which in itself followed in the wake of earlier reports that main performers Chris Pine (James T. Kirk) and Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk) had all already withdrawn their commitments to the project. While not overtly evident at the time, this decision had for all intents and purposes all the hallmarks of the definitive termination of the Kelvin timeline in the Star Trek (film) franchise. [21] It conceivably entails for the time being the end of the Star Trek film franchise proper as well (even though the Quentin Tarantino Star Trek XV pitch was at the time still under consideration, though apparently no longer on the table due to Tarantino's withdrawal from the project in January 2020 [22]), especially in light of the film franchise being virtually rendered insignificant by those from the Star Wars and Marvel Comics ones in particular, [23] and in light of the December 2019 "reunification" of he television, and film franchises under the consolidated end auspices of Secret Hideout, [24] after which Tarentino has indicated his disinclination to further pursue the project. [25] [26]

The cancellation of the fourth alternate reality film could have serious consequences for Paramount, but for production partner Bad Robot Productions in particular, at least where alternate reality Star Trek is concerned, as a production license of the kind extended to the studio and its partner usually includes a timetable clause in which a franchise-licensed production company is obligated to produce sequential franchise film outings within a preordained time-frame. When defaulting on the clause, the film production rights then automatically reverts to the licensor, in this case CBS Corporation (franchise owner as of 2006, then ViacomCBS from December 2019 to February 2022; now rebranded as Paramount Global), who is then free to do with it as it wills. With the establishment of ViacomCBS in December 2019, and the resultant reunification of the two Star Trek franchises, this has indeed become the case, with the fate of the Kelvin timeline as expected hanging in the balance, it as of 2020 being under re-evalution of the new management. [27]

It is against this background that new plans, separate from the Tarantino project, for a fourteenth film were reported in November 2019, involving prospect Writer/Director Noah Hawley, [28] though by May 2020 it too has not evolved beyond the consideration stage, its development apparently stuck in limbo. [29]

It was in the same month that Beyond Performer/Writer Simon Pegg has expressed his personal suspicion that the end of not only the alternate reality, but also the entire film franchise proper had indeed come to pass, when he stated in an interview for Collider,

"The fact is, the appeal of Star Trek is slightly more niche than the appeal of, say, the Marvel movies, which make huge amounts of money, and have this really, really broad appeal and they do very well. I think Star Trek is just a little bit more niche, so it isn’t gonna hit those kind of numbers. So yes, the obvious thing to do would be to not go for that massive spectacle, go for something a little bit more restrained in the vein of the original series. Yes, that would be a brilliant thing to do, and I’m sure it probably has been discussed… You specialize a little bit more. (… )Maybe TV is a better place for [Star Trek] now. Television has evolved so much. It’s become something which is very much a contemporary, a peer of cinema. It’s simply viewed in a different way. It isn’t a reduced scope anymore. You can still do masses of interesting things, and it can still look modern and not inexpensive. Maybe television is a better format for Star Trek. That’s where it started, you know." [30]

In this Pegg has joined the ranks of those who were already of similar mind, such as the Forbes editors who argued as early as November 2016, a mere three months after the Beyond premiere and its resultant box-office failure, "The thing that made [Beyond] most appealing to the fans, that it played like a smaller-scale 50th anniversary homage to the spirit and tone of the original show, was the thing that arguably doomed it in terms of blockbuster success. Star Trek Beyond was what its fans wanted it to be. There is value in that over the long run. But Paramount and friends need to realize that Star Trek is never going to be a Guardians of the Galaxy-level success and plan accordingly." [31] [32]

In November 2020, Hawley intimated that his film was definitively off the table as well. In a 29 November 2020 interview to Deadline Hawley responded to a question about the status of the film, "It doesn’t appear to be in my immediate future. I think when Emma came in, she took a look at the franchise and wanted to go in a different direction with it. But you know, life is long, we were very close to production but in this business that doesn’t mean much. You got to get out of the gate to be in the race if you know what I mean." [33] The "Emma" Hawley referred to concerned Emma Watts, a Paramount executive, who was pursuant the 2019 remerger of Paramount and CBS into ViacomCBS, appointed by National Amusements head Shari Redstone to appraise the status of the Star Trek live-action franchise, both film as well as television, for its (commercial) viability. [34] Hawley's words were in essence Hollywood-speak for the definitive cancellation of his Star Trek film. As to Watt's "different direction", nothing, save some vague rumors, has been made public, making it appear that the entire film franchise too is terminated for the time being – all this being in line with Pegg's assessment.

Cast and crew listings[]

Background information[]

The odd number / even number phenomenon[]

  • A number of Star Trek fans (citation needededit) have expressed the opinion that the even-numbered films are generally better than the odd-numbered ones. Such an appraisal is obviously subjective, but it has its roots in a number of factors. The even-numbered films (apart from Star Trek Nemesis) have enjoyed relatively greater success at the box office and higher critical acclaim, as opposed to various lukewarm reviews received by the odd-numbered films (with the exception of Star Trek). Fans and critics have also noted that, in their opinions, the even-numbered films are better paced and more action-packed, with more memorable story lines, eminently quotable scripts and exciting special effects. (The first two films are often held up as examples of this trend from the outset of the series: Star Trek: The Motion Picture has very few battle or dramatic action sequences, presenting Kirk and crew with a mostly cerebral challenge, while Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is dominated by epic conflict, resulting in several battle sequences and heavy damage to the Enterprise and its crew.)
  • By the time the TNG films were being produced, the "odd/even" phenomenon was effectively regarded as a curse, with members of the production crew fearing that, despite their best efforts, future odd-numbered productions were fated to be less successful than even-numbered ones. Jonathan Frakes, when interviewed by Star Trek Monthly(citation needededit) during pre-production for Star Trek: Insurrection, commented that he was looking forward to directing his second film "even though it's an odd-numbered Star Trek." In 2002, however, the phenomenon was broken by the release of Star Trek Nemesis, which experienced the lowest box-office takings of any Star Trek film to date and was poorly received by even long-standing fans. (Though to a few (citation needededit), this became an even further joke – a Star Trek film which was a multiple of five was cursed to fail catastrophically, as Nemesis pulled in poor reviews and revenue in a similar fashion to The Final Frontier.)
  • The phenomenon has seemingly been broken further by the critical success of Star Trek, which has obtained a 95% on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, as well as an opening weekend gross of nearly twice the full run of Star Trek Nemesis. [36] Sam Hughes, of the website, "Things of Interest", has suggested that the addition of "Galaxy Quest," the affectionate parody of Star Trek released in 1999, between Insurrection and Nemesis, as the "good" Star Trek movie fixes the odd-even curse. [37]
  • In a 1999 episode of the British sitcom Spaced, the phenomenon was mentioned by the series' lead character, Tim Bisley, who was played by Simon Pegg – an irony not lost on Pegg during and after his work on Star Trek.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine[]

  • Whereas the preceding live-action television series had open endings that allowed for continuation into motion picture format, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ended quite firmly and conclusively, with all its various plotlines resolved and the departure of various main characters. Any subsequent film would therefore have required a significantly different premise and different casting, departing radically from the series' format which had been so familiar to its fan base. On the possibility of a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine film ever happening, Ira Steven Behr commented: "I don't think so. I think we could do a pretty kick-ass Deep Space Nine film, but not even in my wildest imaginations do I consider it". He also commented "The only Trek I think about is Deep Space Nine, to be honest. If they did a Deep Space Nine film, I certainly would like to be involved if that ever happened, which I doubt". [38]
  • After the release of Star Trek: Insurrection, Patrick Stewart commented, "I think we should pass the mantle on to the Deep Space Nine characters. We don't want to become The Rolling Stones of the Star Trek films". [39] [40]
  • Andrew Robinson commented "My feeling is that there is never going to be a Deep Space Nine film, they still have more to go with The Next Generation. I think it ("What You Leave Behind") was really the right way to end the series. [41]
  • A campaign for a Deep Space Nine film (or a miniseries) was launched in 2000 by fans Stacy Powell and Doug Wilson. Nana Visitor was thrilled to hear of the existence of the campaign and J.G. Hertzler and David B. Levinson joked with fans to "take one of these [flyers], don't throw it away or I'll come after you." [42] [43]
  • Fans Terry Harris and Gisele La Roche also launched a petition for a Deep Space Nine film, receiving several positive responses from actors. [44](X)
  • Notwithstanding the foregoing, elements from the series have appeared in all TNG films. The Enterprise-D crew wore the uniforms which had been introduced on Deep Space Nine (in addition to their own series' uniforms) in Star Trek Generations; the uniforms were also used on Star Trek: Voyager, which premiered several months after the film's release. The USS Defiant appears in the Battle of Sector 001 during Star Trek: First Contact, under the command of Worf (Michael Dorn), who had become a regular character on DS9 by that time; he also appears in Star Trek: Insurrection. Both Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis contain references to the Dominion War story arc from the series. For Star Trek: Insurrection, a scene was written and filmed involving an appearance by Armin Shimerman as Quark; this was cut from the film, but a still from it can be found among the extras on the DVD release.
  • In 1998, Rick Berman commented "There are a few more movies left in the Generations franchise and there's a good chance we'll see a Deep Space Nine film. What we'd like to do is introduce a few of the characters from Deep Space into the next Generations movie just to tease audiences." [45]

Star Trek: Voyager / Star Trek: Enterprise[]

  • The conclusive endings of both these series likewise indicate little or no probability of future films being based on them. During the run of Voyager, there was speculation among fans (via the internet and other media) that the series would end on a cliff-hanger, to be resolved in a theatrical motion picture, but the ultimate release of "Endgame" as the series finale proved that idea to be unfounded. The potential for continuation of the series has instead been explored in novels and fan-fiction.
  • There is a gap of six years between "Terra Prime" and "These Are the Voyages..." which could serve as the setting of an ENT film, although the timeline position of Star Trek and its sequel suggests that this would be unlikely.
  • Star Trek Nemesis features a cameo by Kate Mulgrew, reprising her role as Kathryn Janeway from Voyager and thus marking the only direct big-screen appearance of any character from that series. (An EMH Mark I, played by Robert Picardo, appears briefly in First Contact, but this is not exactly the same character as the holographic doctor in the series.)
  • Nemesis also features a graphic containing a reference to a USS Archer, named after Captain Jonathan Archer, the main character in Enterprise.
  • Additionally, Star Trek features a reference to "Admiral Archer's prized beagle", intended by the writers to be a reference to Jonathan Archer and his beagle Porthos. [46]
  • A replica of Enterprise NX-01 appears in Star Trek Into Darkness, marking the first appearance of any element from that series on the big screen. Star Trek Beyond refers to Military Assault Command Operations personnel and the Xindi encounter from ENT's third season, as well as depicting an early Starfleet ship whose design resembles that of the NX starships seen in ENT.

Further reading[]

See also[]