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The Gayest Star Trek Yet Triumphs at Box Office

The Gayest Star Trek Yet Triumphs at Box Office

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond boldly introduced a gay character into its universe. And it paid off.

Star Trek Beyond had a stellar opening weekend.

The science fiction adventure film directed by Justin Lin scored $59.6 million in North America, making it the top film in domestic markets. It bested The Secret Life of Pets ($29.3 million), Ghostbusters ($21.6 million), and Ice Age: Collision Course ($21 million).

While the film did not quite match the box office success of the predecessors in the francise rebooted by producer J.J. Abrams -- Star Trek Into Darkness garnered $70.2 million and the 2009 film Star Trek had $75.2 million -- The Hollywood Reporter praised the number as "strong," and "one of the best openings of summer to date," especially "as Hollywood battles a bad case of sequelitis."

The film's gains are notable, in light of the news that the Star Trek universe introduced its first LGBT character: Hikaru Sulu, played by John Cho. In a nod to George Takei, who originated the role of Sulu in the Star Trek television series, the new film reveals Sulu to be gay in a scene that shows his husband and daughter.

The choice had generated controversy before the film's premiere, but not of the anti-LGBT variety. Takei had spoken out against the casting, as he believed it went against creator Gene Roddenberry's original vision for Sulu. He told The Hollywood Reporter he would have preferred it if Star Trek Beyond had introduced a new character who was LGBT.

"I'm delighted that there's a gay character," Takei said. "Unfortunately, it's a twisting of Gene's creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it's really unfortunate."

Regardless, audiences and critics did not seem to mind. Star Trek Beyond scored a "fresh" rating of 87 percent on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

The box-office success of Star Trek Beyond may encourage the franchise and other Hollywood blockbusters to introduce more LGBT characters and further portray their love lives. In this regard, there are still light years to travel. A recent GLAAD report showed that most studios are failing in LGBT inclusion.

Even the final version of Star Trek Beyond was de-gayed. In an interview with Vulture, Cho expressed disappointment at the deletion of a "welcome home kiss" scene with his character's partner, played by Doug Jung.

"It wasn't like a make-out session," he said. "We're at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss. I'm actually proud of that scene, because it was pretty tough. Obviously, I just met the kid, and then Doug is not an actor. I just wanted that to look convincingly intimate. We're two straight guys and had to get to a very loving, intimate place. It was hard to do on the fly. We had to open up. It came off well, in my view."

Even thought it did not feature LGBT characters for decades, Star Trek has long been hailed for its diverse vision of the future, which was made all the more inclusive this year with the announcement that Sulu is gay. The half-alien character of Spock, who in the new film franchise is portrayed by out actor Zachary Quinto, has long been considered an LGBT icon and the "original outsider."

[RELATED: "Spock Is Gay, Not Sulu"]

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