Thursday previews worked really well for "Star Trek: Beyond" to kick off its premiere weekend.
The film has pulled in $5.5 million at preview locations at more than 3,000 theaters Thursday night. That easily topped its new release competition, according to Variety. "Lights Out" from New Line Cinema earned $1.8 million on Thursday, while "Ice Age: Collision Course" grabbed just $850,000.
"Beyond" earned a little more than $1,774 per theater in limited showings, compared to just $300 per theater for "Collision Course."
That could affect Friday's numbers a little bit, although many box office trackers combine Thursday and Friday numbers.
Paramount Pictures were happy with the numbers, saying it topped last November's Thursday preview of the James Bond film "Spectre." And that's worth noting, because "Spectre" went on to make $70.4 million on its opening weekend, according to The Numbers. "Beyond" is predicted to have an opening weekend somewhere between $50 million and $60 million, according to reports, which is below the openings of both 2009's "Star Trek" and 2013's "Star Trek: Into Darkness."
But could "Beyond" follow "Spectre's" path toward $70 million? Probably not.
"Spectre's" biggest competition in November was the opening of "The Peanuts" movie, which grabbed $44.2 million. Just about everything else anyone would consider was practically a month old, and not very big. For example, "The Martian" was third with $9.1 million — 38 days after its release. "Goosebumps" was fourth with $6.8 million, 24 days after its release.
"Beyond" is up against the second week of "Ghostbusters," which had an average opening last week and is not expected to compete for the top spot. "The Secret Life of Pets" has been a huge surprise in the animation market, already earning $225.4 million, and actually beat "Ghostbusters" for first place last week. However, its numbers are expected to be well enough below "Beyond" to not take the top spot.
Typically, an Ice Age movie would be problematic for any opening competition. While the original "Ice Age" opened in the $40 million range in 2002, its 2006 sequel "Ice Age: Meltdown" opened with $68 million. Even the 2012 sequel "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" was strong with $41.7 million.
Yet, "Collision Course" is not getting good reviews from critics at all, despite huge numbers being posted for the film internationally ahead of its American release. As of Friday afternoon, 80 critics had checked in with Rotten Tomatoes, and only 13 percent liked it.
The same is not true for "Beyond," which Rotten Tomatoes "certified fresh" late Thursday. Of the 146 critics surveyed so far, 87 percent liked it. In fact, the review aggregator said the consensus on "Beyond" was that it "continues the franchise's post-reboot hot streak with an epic sci-fi adventure that honors the series' sci-fi roots without skimping on the blockbuster action."
By comparison, 2009's "Star Trek" impressed 95 percent of the 333 critics polled (only 17 of them didn't like it), while 2013's "Into Darkness" got thumbs up from 86 percent of the 265 critics contacted. So even now, "Beyond" is trending slightly better than "Into Darkness" when it comes to critics.
Friday will be the real test, however. "Into Darkness" earned $21.6 million on its first night, easily beating "Iron Man 3" (which was starting its third week) and "The Great Gatsby" (which was starting its second week. Then again, no other film opened with the "Star Trek" sequel, a luxury "Beyond" does not have.
"Star Trek: Beyond," starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella, opens today.