Date in print: Fri., Apr. 21, 2006, Los Angeles
Trekkies have a new leader
'Star' treatment for J.J.
By DAVE MCNARY
J.J. Abrams is becoming the next Gene Roddenberry.
Paramount is breathing life into its "Star Trek" franchise by setting "Mission: Impossible III" helmer J.J. Abrams to produce and direct the 11th "Trek" feature, aiming for a 2008 release.
Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk, Abrams' producing team from "Lost," also will produce the yet-to-be-titled feature.
Project, to be penned by Abrams and "MI3" scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, will center on the early days of seminal "Trek" characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and first outer space mission.
Deal reflects ParPar's bullishness on "MI3," which launches worldwide next weekend, and underlines the goal of Paramount chief Brad Grey and prexyprexy Gail Berman to re-energize the pipeline via high-profile tentpoles while revitalizing the Par brand with top-tier talent such as Abrams.
"MI3" is the first pic to be released that's been greenlit by Grey.
"Star Trek" has been Hollywood's most durable performer other than James Bond, spawning 10 features that have grossed more than $1 billion and 726 TV episodes from six series.
Decision to relaunch "Star Trek" comes less than a year after UPNUPN pulled the plug on "Star Trek: Enterprise" amid dismal ratings following a four-season run and four years after "Star Trek: Nemesis" turned in the worst performance of the 10 films with $43 million domestic.
Original series created by Roddenberry launched in 1966 on NBC and ended in 1969.
During the following decade, the original 78 episodes of "Trek" became staples in syndication and helped mobilize the fan base along with conventions, books and merchandise. Paramount released "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979 and saw domestic grosses hit $82 million. The next three films grossed a combined $263 million domestically, so Paramount started the second TV series, "The Next Generation," in 1987, with Rick Berman and Roddenberry co-exec producing.
Under Sherry Lansing's tenure, Rick Berman had been teamed several years ago with Jordan Kerner and Kerry McCluggage to develop an 11th feature set in the early days of Starfleet Academy.