How Much Money Has 'Star Trek' Franchise Made

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Star Trek has been with us for more than four decades and the new hit movie now in theaters shows the franchise still has legs. Ever wonder how much money Star Trek has made over all these years?

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The new "Star Trek" movie is the current box office king. Captain Kirk, Spock and the whole "Star Trek" franchise have been around for more than 40 years. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates set of to find out how much cash the franchise has generated during its long life.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: If you are a "Star Trek" fan, Gary Berman's Glendale, California office is your version of heaven. It is stocked, floor to ceiling, with "Star Trek" stuff.

Mr. GARY BERMAN (Founder, Creation Entertainment): We have pins and patches and T-shirts and hats and mugs and posters and autographed items and…

BATES: Berman's company, Creation Entertainment, sells collectibles at sci-fi conventions around the country. It's very profitable. But ask how profitable and Berman demurs.

Mr. BERMAN: We're just a licensee, and we - everything that we produce is approved by the studio, and then a percentage of our merchandise sales goes back to the studio.

BATES: But which studio. Several mergers, splits and acquisitions have made "Star Trek's" earnings a financial version of "Who's on First." Tatiana Siegel reports on film for Variety, and she says "Star Trek's" ownership history is such a puzzle…

Ms. TATIANA SIEGEL (Reporter, Variety): It's just impossible to actually come up with a figure of what the franchise is worth and what it has generated over the years, over the decades.

(Soundbite of film or television)

Mr. WILLIAM SHATNER (Actor): (As James Tiberius Kirk) Man battle stations. Standby main phasers.

(Soundbite of siren)

Ms. NICHELLE NICHOLS (Actor): (As Nyota Uhura) Battle stations. (Unintelligible) battle stations.

BATES: Forty-three years worth of the various TV series, movies and merchandise, nobody can keep up with it. Siegel even asked the chairman of Paramount to give her a guesstimate. He couldn't.

Ms. SIEGEL: He said something to the effect of if somebody had a figure, it would be made-up because there's just no way of actually saying that this is how much it made.

BATES: The short answer is lots. When the franchise's latest owner, Viacom, split, Viacom's Paramount became the prime custodian of the film properties, and CBS Corporation because the gatekeeper for "Star Trek" literary properties and TV, including promotional tie-ins like the current one at Burger King.

I'd like two diet Cokes and a "Star Trek" glass.

Unidentified Woman: Anything else?

BATES: $1.99 got me, at warp speed, a glass with the Enterprise one side and Officer Uhura on the other. Fast-food promotions and mass-market toys swell the "Star Trek" coffers, but there's also high-end stuff.

(Soundbite of Klingon gun)

Mr. TREVOR ROTH (Chief Operating Officer, GeneRoddenberry.com): In this particular case, if you're hit by this, you would perish or be disintegrated.

BATES: Trevor Roth is the chief operating officer for GeneRoddenberry.com. The business started by "Star Trek's" creator offers the menacing Klingon gun, the classic transporter to beam you up and the Enterprise's communication system at serious collectors' prices.

Mr. TREVOR ROTH: Everything on the table is sitting around the $500 mark.

BATES: You're not going to find this stuff at Burger King or Toys R Us, but it does count as part of the tsunami of profits "Star Trek" has garnered over the years.

Liz Kalodner is executive vice president and general manager of CBS consumer products. She's contacted daily with "Star Trek" opportunities.

Ms. LIZ KALODNER (Executive Vice President, General Manager of Consumer Products, CBS): I am constantly awed by the number of people that call me and write to me interested in using "Star Trek" intellectual property.

(Soundbite of song, "Star Trek" Theme)

BATES: Enterprise-shaped buildings, a school based on the Starship Academy, you name it. It all has to get past Kalodner.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Star Trek")

Mr. SHATNER: (as Kirk) Space, the final frontier.

BATES: The stuff that does ends up adding to the most profitable entertainment franchise in history. It gives new meaning to the old Vulcan saying: Live long and prosper. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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