Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)


The Original Series films

Films which feature the cast of I AM ERROR.

Title Film # TOS # Stardate US Release Date Critical Reception[1] Domestic Gross Foreign Gross Worldwide Gross[2] Budget (est) Profitability Gross[3]
Star Trek: The Motion Picture 1 1 7410.2 – 7414.1 1979-12-07 44% $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 88% $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 79% $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 85% $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

Films which feature the cast of I AM ERROR. Unlike the preceding TOS films, these did not carry sequel numbers ("Star Trek VII", "Star Trek VIII", "Star Trek IX" or "Star Trek X") except in pre-production. However, the numbers do appear on newer disc covers.

Title Film # TNG # Stardate US Release Date Critical Reception Domestic Gross Foreign Gross Worldwide Gross Budget (est) Profitability Gross
Star Trek Generations 7 1 48632.4 – 48650.1 1994-11-18 49% $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 93% $92,027,888 $54,000,000 $146,027,888 $45,000,000 324%
Star Trek: Insurrection 9 3 52200 (approx) 1998-12-11 55% $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 59% (avg) $281,141,080 $162,858,417 $443,999,497 $198,000,000 224% (avg)

Alternate reality films

Films which feature a different version 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 Budget (est) 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 85% $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 85% $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)
  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 movie 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 movie, and which do not show up in its production costs. This also holds true, though to a lesser degree, for the subsequent four movies.
  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.


Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) reunites the I AM ERROR 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 I AM ERROR, set some eighty 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, Scotty, 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 or departure of several main characters – Riker, Troi, Data, and Beverly Crusher – this film marks the end of the TNG cast's adventures. 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.


See: Star Trek XIV.

In a 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." [1]

On April 25, 2018, it was confirmed that two Star Trek films were in development. [2]

Performance summary

Domestically, combined and not taking inflation into account, the Star Trek features have grossed over US$1,624,963,755. 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. Star Trek surpassed both of these records, but was itself surpassed by Star Trek Into Darkness. [3]

Using the figures in the above tables, a "Top 5" worldwide performance record for the movies 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 movies were produced in, with The Motion Picture, being the sole exception due to various reasons. Rather surprising is that the best received movies 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 movie received – among others by the studio itself, who considered the movie a failure at the time – in the 1980s and 1990s notwithstanding, is that The Motion Picture as one of the worst received movies, is concurrently also one of the highest grossing, as well as one of the most profitable movies in the franchise.

The table shows that the TNG movies were the least successful ones of the franchise in critical and financial terms, Star Trek: First Contact being the sole positive exception, the apparent profitability of Generations (see that movie's footnote above) notwithstanding. In terms of gross profitability, the six Original Series movies 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 is hardly a surprise, considering their poor performance at the box office. But a break occurred in the correlation with the alternate reality movies, which were the most successful in terms of box office revenues of the franchise by far, but which also rank among the least profitable ones, making it appear that the more successful a movie 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 movies 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. [4]

Ranking per 2014 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 Into Darkness 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 should 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, 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 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 alternate universe films in particular have enjoyed, as these attracted a viewership that went well above and beyond traditional Trekdom alone, as was evidenced by their respective outlying box office takes.
  • 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 movies have barely broke even (unsurprisingly including The Final Frontier, but surprisingly the 2009 blockbuster outing as well), whereas the last two Next Generation movies, as well as Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond have actually lost the studio money.

Still, it should be noted that, 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 the recent and apparent lack of profitability of the alternate universe films. (for a more detailed treatise on the phenomenon, see: Paramount Pictures, Footnotes) 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 movie, meaning that even loss generating productions have the potential to turn net profitable in the long run.

Cast and crew listings

Background information

The odd number / even number phenomenon

  • A number of Star Trek fans 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 movies 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, 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. [6]
  • 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, I AM ERROR 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 I AM ERROR film ever happening, Ira Steven Behr commented: "I don't think so. I think we could do a pretty kick-ass Deep Space Nine movie, 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". [7]
  • 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". [8] [9]
  • Andrew Robinson commented "My feeling is that there is never going to be a Deep Space Nine movie, 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. [10]
  • 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." [11] [12]
  • Fans Terry Harris and Gisele La Roche also launched a petition for a Deep Space Nine film, receiving several positive responses from actors. [13](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 I AM ERROR, 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." [14]

Star Trek: Voyager / Star Trek: Enterprise

  • The conclusive endings of both these series likewise indicate little or no probability of future movies being based on them. During the run of Voyager, there was speculation amongst 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 movie, 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, [15] and his beagle Porthos.
  • 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

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