By DAVID GERMAIN
AP Movie Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - "Star Trek: Into Darkness" has warped its way to a $70.6 million domestic launch from Friday to Sunday, though it's not setting any light-speed records with a debut that's lower than the studio's expectations.
The latest voyage of the starship Enterprise fell short of its predecessor, 2009's "Star Trek," which opened with $75.2 million.
Since premiering Wednesday in huge-screen IMAX theaters and expanding Thursday to general cinemas, "Into Darkness" has pulled in $84.1 million, well below distributor Paramount's initial forecast of $100 million. The film added $40 million overseas, pushing its total to $80.5 million since it began rolling out internationally a week earlier.
The "Star Trek" sequel bumped "Iron Man 3" down to second place after two weekends on top. Robert Downey Jr.'s superhero saga took in $35.2 million domestically to lift its receipts to $337.1 million. Overseas, "Iron Man 3" added $40.2 million, raising its international total to $736.2 million and its worldwide tally to nearly $1.1 billion.
While "Iron Man 3" and "Into Darkness" did well overseas, they were outmatched by the debut of Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," which followed its domestic debut a week earlier with a wide rollout internationally. "Gatsby" pulled in $42.1 million overseas, coming in a bit ahead of both "Iron Man 3" and "Into Darkness."
Domestically, "Gatsby" held up well at No. 3 with $23.4 million, lifting its total to $90.2 million.
In today's Hollywood of bigger, better sequels, follow-up films often outdo the box office of their predecessors, as each "Iron Man" sequel has done. While "Into Darkness" earned good reviews and is getting strong word-of-mouth from fans, the film did not quite measure up to the opening weekend of director J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot from four years ago, at least domestically.
"'Star Trek' remains a fan-boy movie. It doesn't seem to have the same kind of cross-over appeal as say an `Iron Man' or some of these others," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "It's a very specific brand, but I think the general public would love this movie, because it's such an action movie. But to get a hundred-million-plus opening weekend, unless you're `Twilight,' you really have to cross over to all audiences."
Paramount points out that overseas business is up in many markets, though, so worldwide, the sequel is off to a better start.
"Because of the nature of the franchise, because of how many movies have been made and the various forms of the TV shows, I'm not sure that `Star Trek' goes by the rules of normal sequels. I think each movie stands on its own, because it's a unique franchise," said Don Harris, Paramount's head of distribution. "My goal was always that we grow the franchise. We're clearly seeing by today's numbers that the movie is being embraced on a worldwide basis in a way we've never seen before."
Harris said that domestically, "Into Darkness" finished its first weekend 6 percent ahead of revenues for 2009's "Star Trek," which got a head-start with $4 million in Thursday night previews to give it a $79.2 million haul through the first Sunday.
But "Into Darkness" had a full day of screenings Thursday plus its Wednesday IMAX business. Unlike the first movie, which played only in 2-D, the sequel also had the benefit of 3-D screenings that cost a few dollars more. Yet even with the 3-D upcharge and the earlier debut, it came away with just $4.9 million more than its predecessor through Sunday.
Still, it's a solid starting place for the movie to live long and prosper at theaters, with Paramount hoping "Into Darkness" can surpass the $385 million worldwide total of "Star Trek."
"I think we're well along on that road," Harris said.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Star Trek: Into Darkness," $70.6 million ($40 million international).
2. "Iron Man 3," $35.2 million ($40.2 million international).
3. "The Great Gatsby," $23.4 million ($42.1 million international)
4. "Pain & Gain," $3.1 million.
5. "The Croods," $2.75 million.
6. "42," $2.73 million.
7. "Oblivion," $2.2 million.
8. "Mud," $2.16 million.
9. "Peeples," $2.15 million.
10. "The Big Wedding," $1.1 million.
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "The Great Gatsby," $42.1 million.
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