Noah Hawley's Star Trek movie is on hold, but the director still has thoughts about the challenges inherent in making the film. Some of them have to do with the business side of the process. The Star Trek television franchise is expanding on CBS All Access and will continue to grow through at least 2027. That alone offers a particular challenge for convincing audiences to pay a ticket price to see the same franchise in a movie theater. With both Hollywood and movie theaters struggling to figure out how to operate during the coronavirus pandemic, the current industry climate only makes it more challenging to consider.
"One of the biggest challenges that anyone has right now is, 'What is the feature film business?' Certainly, we're at a moment where the movie theater experience is dormant, at least, for a year or two," Hawley tells Collider, "and the only way really to make your money back on a $100 million+ movie is box office, and if you can't rely on that, how do you run that business? Unless you have a really strong streaming play, which Disney tried with Mulan by charging $30 for it, you can make your money back that way. But it's yet to be proven that people will spend $30 for a home viewing experience. I think that's one of the biggest challenges of making a film out of a brand that people are already getting a taste of, just making sure that it's going to justify the expense of it."
Hawley also considers the suggestion of a smaller budget Star Trek movie that goes all-in on the sci-fi ideas and cuts out the big-budget set pieces. That comes with a different set of problems.
"I think that's possible, although what you get into, especially with the film companies that don't have a strong streaming play, is that they're not in the business of making a little bit of money," Hawley says. "The only business they can be in is the making-a-lot-of-money business, so it's the tentpole business. If you were to offer them a $20 million that could at best earn $80-90 million, it might not even be worth the price of admission for them. Now, I'm sure you could go to CBS All Access or whatever and say, 'Let me make a two-hour Star Trek movie for streaming.' That might be worth it. But the theatrical experience, that's the challenge that I think we're going to find in the next 5-10 years."
Hawley's film will introduce a brand new Star Trek crew and present an existential challenge to the Federation's existence. It is one of three Star Trek movies in consideration at Paramount Pictures.