Out & About

‘Star Trek’ fans expected to rush to midstate theaters tonight for latest franchise film

Barbara Paul will be in line at the Galleria Stadium Cinemas in Centerville tonight with a mission she hopes will last longer than Capt. James Kirk’s original five-year mission.

Not only will she be at the theater to see the newest “Star Trek” movie debut, but she’ll also try to recruit new members to USS Robins, a Trek fan club.

She holds the titles of admiral and commanding officer in that group.

“We’re going to show up in our crew shirts and see if we can pick up some new members,” said Paul, 58, who works in traffic control for the Warner Robins Police Department.

The group has had difficulty maintaining its membership levels, she said, because of the mobile nature of many of the people who are assigned to Robins Air Force Base.

That dilemma parallels the situation of late with the 43-year-old “Star Trek” franchise, which has struggled in recent years trying to find a next generation of fans.

Paul and Paramount Studios hope the new version of “Star Trek,” which features young actors such as Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban recast in the familiar roles of Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy, respectively, will help draw younger fans who aren’t that familiar with the original incarnation of the TV series, which ran from 1966-69.

“A lot of the younger generation have never seen the original ‘Star Trek,’ except in syndication,” Paul said. “The new movie is opening up a lot of possibilities.”

Still, for the old-school Trekkers, original star Leonard Nimoy also will appear in the movie.

There hasn’t been a new “Trek” film since “Star Trek: Nemesis,” which was released in 2002 and performed poorly at the box office. “Star Trek: Enterprise,” the fourth TV spinoff of the original series, was canceled after four seasons in 2005.

But the newest version of “Star Trek” has gotten rave reviews from both mainstream movie critics and the online-based sci-fi community, and Paramount hopes the movie reinvigorates the franchise in the same way that “Casino Royale” did for James Bond and “Batman Begins” did for Batman.

Wesley Clark, general manager of the AmStar 16 Cinema on Zebulon Road in Macon, said he is anticipating a very large crowd for tonight’s early showings, though seats were still available as of Wednesday evening. Local radio stations WDEN and WMGB will also be on hand at AmStar, judging which fans show up in the best costumes.

The movie also is being shown at Galleria Stadium Cinemas and Rivergate Regal 14.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said. “We’re also going to be playing it on our digital (screens).”

Clark said the theater attracted a large crowd last weekend for the opening of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which grossed $85.1 million over the weekend. He expects “Star Trek” to be even bigger.

“To be honest, the anticipation for (‘Trek’) has been even stronger than ‘X-Men,’ ” he said. “I hope the ‘Star Trek’ film really delivers. The previews have looked incredible, and the marketing has been really, really good. A lot of folks who are not Trekkies are looking forward to it. ... This has definitely been the strongest anticipation there has been for a ‘Star Trek’ film.”

Clark said the biggest openings at AmStar have been for “The Dark Knight,” which sold out at six of the theater’s seven midnight showings, and for Tyler Perry’s “Madea Goes To Jail,” which had a huge opening weekend. Perry, coincidentally, makes a cameo appearance in “Star Trek.”

The universe of “Star Trek,” created by writer Gene Roddenberry, has spawned five live-action TV series, an animated TV series, hundreds of novels, comic books and now 11 feature films, not to mention a great deal of fan-produced fiction and videos.

Paul said the reason the series has managed to last in one form or another for so many years lies in the optimistic view of the future that “Star Trek” presents.

“I like to think it’s the possibility of a brighter future,” she said. “We can view ourselves in a more positive light. (The Warner Robins fan chapter) has members from all walks of life — engineers, doctors, lawyers, school teachers. We all have different backgrounds, different religions. But we all get along together, and that’s what the appeal (of the series) is. It gets past bigotry and racial strife and barriers and looks at us as one people.”

In the 23rd century, the time period the franchise is set, there are no such barriers, she said.

“It’s about people improving themselves and using their abilities and talents to make themselves better,” she said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.