I meant to put this up with the last post but that one was so Disney-centric it made more sense to make this a separate post.
Last month there was an article in Deadline that said the newly hired president of the Paramount, Emma Watts claimed that her top priority was rebooting Star Trek.
Alex Kutzman’s name wasn’t mentioned once in the entire article. That was a significant smoke-signal in Hollywood.
Paramount wants to move Star Trek ahead without Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout.
Loyal Reader: So why don’t they just fire him and move on?
Because they can’t.
This part is complicated.
Back in 2005, Sumner Redstone decided to split Paramount into two separate entities. CBS/Viacom and Paramount studios proper. Since Star Trek was a TV property it was handed over to Viacom which was controlled by Les Moonves at the time. And Moonves hates science fiction, he is the second executive in the history of the franchise to cancel Star Trek.
Consequently, when Paramount wanted to make a Star Trek movie it had to get a license from Viacom. Moonves had a great relationship with J.J. Abrams so it while he doesn’t like Star Trek personally, he was willing to sign off on the license.
Abrams for his part doesn’t really like Star Trek either, he likes Star Wars. Or at least his simplistic interpretation of Star Wars, which is Angry Guy Who Has a Big Space Ship Blows Up a Planet. That is all science fiction is to J.J. Abrams. Those are the Star Trek movies he made.
Somewhere along the line, a decision was made that Viacom’s Star Trek would be the only one that is “canon.” The reason for this was to keep the merchandise and toy lines separate. Bad Robot’s stories would not be canon, which gave birth to the Kelvin timeline and let Abrams blowup Vulcan.
Star Trek (2009) made about $400 million against a budget of $150 million, which qualifies it as profitable but not highly profitable. It was certainly worth a sequel or two. Star Trek Into Darkness pulled in $450 million but Star Trek Beyond had a lower take of $385 million.
It was worth squeezing more blood out of that stone but J.J. had just landed his dream job of butchering Star Wars. “Five planets! I get to blow-up five planets at once!!!”
So Star Trek IV (the second) went into development orbit.
As I said, Les Moonves had a great relationship with Abrams and there was still blood in the aforementioned stone. While Moonves hates science fiction he loves money. So Bad Robot’s retarded little brother, Secret Hideout was given an ironclad production license which would last five years. Then Moonves got #MeTooed out of Hollywood.
Since it was owned directly by Viacom, Star Trek: Discovery would be (allegedly) canon. But since Bad Robot is a major stakeholder in Secret Hideout they are bound by Bad Robot’s original contract which requires any Star Trek they produce be legally distinct (the number that gets floated around on the internet is “25% percent different”).
Now it pains me to be fair to Secret Hideout but I will grant this much. Original Star Trek was made in 1967-69. Each planet the Enterprise visited was so different from the next it was nearly an anthology series. The costumes are just plain silly by modern standards and can’t realistically be used today. The sets have the same problem.
Fine. Changes needed to be made but dear god in heaven, it didn’t have to be made into something unwatchably bad. Kurtzman doesn’t get Star Trek and he never will. I’ve trashed STD and Picard repeatedly and won’t bother to do so again here.
Bottomline, Secret Hideout’s Star Trek is a disaster and has significantly devalued the brand.
Recently, CBS/Viacom and Paramount were merged back together and this actually made the situation with Star Trek worse.
Because of the terms of Secret Hideout’s license they are now in charge of all Star Trek movies as well as TV shows.
The problem is that they can’t be trusted with any of them.
None of Kurtzman’s Star Trek projects, with the exception of a couple of cartoons, are getting any funding from Paramount/Viacom, and the outside sources have learned their lesson, there will be no more money coming from Amazon or Netflix. And Paramount can’t move forward with any Star Trek film projects without Kurtzman’s involvement.
This isn’t quite a stalemate because according to reasonably reliable sources, Secret Hideout and Bad Robot get paid millions in license fees from Paramount/Viacom even if the only thing they bring to the party is sitting on their butts for the next three years. And breaking the contract will result in a nine figure penalty fee paid by Paramount to Secret Hideout. Now all of this stuff is standard industry practice and no one would care in the least if Kurtzman was capable of producing a Star Trek that Star Trek fans like. But he can’t do that. It’s just beyond him.
Now in normal times, Paramount would just sit out the contract, pay the license fees and flip Kurtzman and company the bird in three years.
But these are the End-Times.
Any entertainment company that depends on theatrical exhibition for their films is in financial agony right now. It’s not just Disney. All of the studios are hurting and may never recover (one hopes). Right now any asset that is not making money is a liability.
Star Trek was at one time Paramount’s crown jewel. When anybody there referred to “the franchise” everyone knew they meant Star Trek. But when times are tight enough even crown jewels can be put up for auction.
Paramount can do that right now and Secret Hideout is just plain out of luck unless their license has some truly insane codicils.
But the few buyers available, (let’s say Apple as a distinct possibility) won’t be interested in forking over a billion dollars for a damaged intellectual property. Nor will anyone want to buy Star Trek if Kurtzman is attached to it for another three years
If they have to go with a Red Button Option and sell Star Trek, it’s worth a $150 million to make a Star Trek movie that proves the property can still move tickets…but it’s not worth paying another $150 million to get rid of Kurtzman.
There is an interesting war of nerves going on at the moment. Kurtzman has been touting his new CBS project, Clarice (as in Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs) in every news release he’s made until the latest one, where it wasn’t mentioned at all. Indicating that CBS has told him they are thinking about canceling all of his projects. This is known as a threat.
In reply Star Trek: Discovery has announced its first Trans and Non-bineary characters will be in this next season, thus guaranteeing bad press from trolls like me. It is Kurtzman’s little way of saying he can still damage the brand even more and you can’t do anything about it because Woke.
I suspect there will be further attempts by both sides to strengthen their positions before Paramount goes into arbitration.
Let me make this clear, it’s not in either side’s interest to create a blood-feud over this. Bad Robot still has a good reputation as a moneymaker, even if the fans aren’t fooled anymore. And no one in their right mind wants to permanently piss off a studio when there are only four left, (and one of them already isn’t speaking to you because of Star Wars).
On the other hand nobody gets something for nothing in Hollywood.
Okay, I’m done here.