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J.J. Abrams directing ‘Star Wars’: What happens to ‘Star Trek’?

J.J. Abrams, who has made a name for himself writing, directing and producing such hits as "Lost" and "Star Trek," was tapped in January to direct "Star Wars: Episode VII." (Tracey Nearmy / European Pressphoto Agency)

Abrams made his first foray into television in 1998, co-creating the coming-of-age drama "Felicity," which starred Keri Russell as the title character. The show won a Golden Globe and an Emmy. (The WB)

Abrams created the Jennifer Garner-starring spy thriller series "Alias," which won four Emmys and a Golden Globe. (Norman Jean Roy / ABC)

J.J. Abrams on the set of "Mission: Impossible III," the first feature film he directed. The film earned nearly $400 million at the worldwide box office. (Paramount Pictures)

Director J.J. Abrams and star Tom Cruise on the set of "Mission: Impossible III." (Paramount Pictures)

Director J.J. Abrams and star Tom Cruise pose atop Shanghai's historic Bund 18 building after wrapping up filming in China for "Mission: Impossible III" on Nov. 30, 2005. (Associated Press)

Abrams co-created "Lost" with Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof. The suspense-filled show followed a group of people after their plane crashed on an island. The massively popular series became a cultural touchstone, with millions of viewers tuning in for twist after twist. (ABC)

J.J. Abrams is photographed in Los Angeles in April 2006. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

J.J. Abrams, second from left, poses with the cast members from "Fringe," a sci-fi television series he co-created with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. (Rich Lam / Getty Images)

J.J. Abrams reveals his first casting for his 2009 reboot of "Star Trek" during a 2007 Comic-Con panel in San Diego. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

A scene from Abrams' 2009 film "Star Trek," which raked in more than $385 million worldwide. (Paramount Pictures)

Steven Spielberg, left, co-produced the 2011 film "Super 8," which J.J. Abrams wrote and directed. The pair are shown here at a 2009 dinner honoring Spielberg in Beverly Hills. (Michael Kovac / WireImage)

J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg on the set of "Super 8." (Paramount Pictures)

Director J.J. Abrams and actor Kyle Chandler on the set of "Super 8." (Paramount Pictures)

Young actors Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths discuss a scene with director J.J. Abrams on the set of "Super 8." (Paramount Pictures)

J.J. Abrams, left, and Eric Kripke executive produce the post-apocalyptic adventure series "Revolution." The pair are photographed here at Abrams' company Bad Robot in Santa Monica on Aug. 20, 2012. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Abrams, second from left, shares the stage with "Star Trek Into Darkness" actor Benedict Cumberbatch, star Chris Pine and producer Bryan Burk during a December 2012 press conference for the sequel to their 2009 blockbuster. (Koji Sasahara / Associated Press)

J.J. Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath are co-chairs of the Children's Defense Fund of California. They're photographed here in December 2012. (Mark Davis / Getty Images)

J.J. Abrams is photographed in Beverly Hills in June 2011. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

J.J. Abrams is photographed in Beverly Hills in June 2011. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a question that immediately sprang to the minds of fans of two franchises with Thursday’s news that J.J. Abrams will direct “Star Wars: Episode VII.”

What happens to “Star Trek”?

According to Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore, Abrams — who directed both 2009’s “Star Trek” and the upcoming sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness” — will still be involved in some capacity with a possible third “Trek” movie, at the minimum as a producer, if not also directing the film.

Moore also pointed out that Abrams will continue to play a role in another of the studio’s most valuable franchises, “Mission: Impossible.”

“J.J. will continue to develop projects for us including a new ‘Mission: Impossible,’ and he is committed to produce another ‘Star Trek,'” Moore said Friday afternoon.

With 2009’s big-screen reboot of the beloved television and movie series, Abrams won over a new generation of audiences with a broadly entertaining and accessible take on Gene Roddenberry’s venerable cast of characters — and satisfied hard-core fans by creating a place for Leonard Nimoy to appear as Spock alongside Zachary Quinto’s new take on the beloved Vulcan.

Anticipation for the May 17 sequel is astronomically high. Paramount wisely began stoking interest in “Star Trek Into Darkness” starting late last year, with the release of a plot synopsis, a poster, a teaser, a trailer and then rolling out nine minutes of footage before Imax 3-D showings of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Last month, Abrams revealed the nine minutes to select journalists at a Century City screening room. Two days later, at the Santa Monica offices of his company, Bad Robot, the writers and select cast members — including Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve and Benedict Cumberbatch — gathered to chat up reporters and to show off costumes and props from the upcoming film.

Damon Lindelof, who wrote the script with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, said the early rollout was inspired by director Christopher Nolan’s early reveal of footage from “The Dark Knight Rises.” With four years having passed since Abrams’ first “Star Trek” film, Lindelof said, “there had to be a lifting of the curtain a little bit,” otherwise fans grow suspicious.

With just about 100 days to go before the film officially opens, though, word of Abrams’ defection to a galaxy far, far away — news that met with a decidedly mixed reaction — raises questions about who might direct a third “Trek” film, should Paramount move forward with one, and what role Abrams and his creative partners Lindelof, Kurtzman and Orci might play in a future installment.

Abrams’ schedule likely would prohibit him from stepping behind the camera, though there was a four-year gap between “Star Trek” and the upcoming sequel. If Abrams does not direct, that could leave either Lindelof or Kurtzman and Orci in the director’s chair, or perhaps another Abrams associate such as filmmaker Matt Reeves, who helmed the Abrams-produced monster movie “Cloverfield” (though Reeves is set to direct “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” for Fox).

It seems for now Abrams’ relationship with Paramount remains strong — every film Abrams has directed or produced since 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III” has been for the studio, where Bad Robot enjoys a lucrative first-look deal.

Still, executives can’t be overjoyed by the idea of Abrams working on “Star Wars” for Disney, especially with the promotional effort for “Star Trek Into Darkness” continuing to pick up steam. At least for the moment, journalists are probably more interested in hearing about how Abrams might further George Lucas’ vision than deciphering the identity of Cumberbatch’s mystery-shrouded villain.

— Gina McIntyre

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