So there are a lot of news outlets all claiming that Star Trek could be the next MCU (Marv Cinematic Universe for those who don’t know!) with recent chat having the franchise being a very hot topic.
Star Trek: Picard had one of the most watched trailers when it was debuted at San Diego Comic Con in July this year, with millions of people watching the video within the first few hours of it being put on line. Star Trek: Discovery is due to set sail for its third season in early 2020, with the timeline being jumped forward over a thousand years to give us our best look ever at what the future holds for the Alpha Quadrant. Lower Decks will be an animated series that will feature low ranking officers on board a Federation starship, rather than the bridge crew and it too is set to debut in 2020.
Add to all this the much rumoured and anticipated Tarantino Trek movie and the future looks pretty bright indeed.
Of course a show or movie is only as good as its scripts and the pedigree of writers and creative minds behind most of these in the franchise is first rate, and with directors such as Jonathan Frakes taking up the helm on the first two episodes of Picard, and later returning to Discovery, we should be in for a great run of programmes.
However is Star Trek going to be the equivalent of the MCU? To be honest I think not!
Before I go much further, let me point out that I am a Star Trek fan of over fifty years, and revere the show with great awe and admiration. I love all incarnations so far and have watched each episode of all the series at least four times over, many more in the case of TOS, TNG and DS9!
So why don’t I think that it will be as huge as the MCU? Simple answer is toys!
Back in 1977 Star Wars came out and the summer blockbuster was truly born (though it really can be traced back to the release of Jaws two years earlier). George Lucas made a very bold decision to withhold fees in return for merchandising rights to the movie. Naturally the powers that be were laughing all the way to the bank with this deal, but that backfired when the movie became the highest grossing of all time and made George Lucas a very rich man indeed.
It was the success of the toy sales that made Lucas and Kenner wealthy and soon other companies followed suit and when Star Trek the Motion Picture was released a couple of years after the success of Star Wars, a small range of toys were also released to try and copy the still successful range that Kenner had on shelves. Sadly the toys were not of the same quality and the range more or less bombed pretty hard and it would be almost twenty years before we got another range of Star Trek toys that would go halfway to meeting the expectations of fans world wide.
So why do I mention toys? Well simply put the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a powerhouse for toy companies who produce hundreds of tie in action figures, dolls, and other merchandise for each new entry into the franchise. This year alone there have been very successful ranges for Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far from Home, all of which have netted parent company Disney huge profits for 2019!
Star Trek has a very loyal fan base and it was that very fan base that saved the show itself way back when Bjo Trimble launched the campaign to resurrect the series back in the seventies! Sadly for Trek fans though, no matter how popular they deem their heroes and the characters of the movies and shows, they will never have a hope against superheroes from either Marvel or DC for that matter.
This means that while the shows may be successful in their own rights, they will never have the clout that can be wielded by Marvel.
Star Trek: Discovery dropped the ball with its lack of merchandising during its first season as toy retailers were reluctant to test the waters with a toy range and as such hardly any merchandise for the first two season was released. This will most likely be the same for the upcoming shows and even the new movie if it ever gets greenlit!
To date there have been three movies in the rebooted Kelvin timeline franchise and while the first two got some action figures and merchandise, the last movie had very little to boast of. If you think of it in the term of the MCU, its least successful movie The Incredible Hulk made $134,806,913 in its run at the box office, next to the $158.848.340 domestic gross of the least successful of the new Trek movies Star Trek Beyond. This may shoot my theory out of the water but if you look at it the other way, the most successful of the Trek movies Star Trek made $257,730,019 domestically, next to Avengers: Endgame which grossed $357,115,007 in its opening weekend alone!
No matter how successful the Trek shows are they will never be able to compete with those kinds of crazy figures and which brings me to the point of the article. A lot of sites are now saying that Trek is the new MCU money spinner and while it will undoubtedly make a great deal of money for its owners, I think that there is not even the remotest chance that it will ever be as successful, even Harry Potter and James Bond are outstripped by the MCU!
Of course some of the pundits are say that its going to be in the same vein as the MCU, rather than topple it as a franchise. And while it is very popular, I seriously don’t think so sadly. Even the merger with CBS and Viacom which puts everything in the same house would find it difficult. Until now there had been rights disputes over some characters being owned by Viacom and others by CBS!
We can hope and dream as after all Star Trek is built on hope!
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