There’s no question that despite the success of summer releases Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pitch Perfect 2, Mad Max: Fury Road and San Andreas, the box office is still down from last summer, which is why the release of one of the most long-awaited franchise returns is going to do its best to resuscitate things as Jurassic World is thought to be the next big blockbuster of the summer.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Way back in the early ‘90s, director Steven Spielberg was already a big deal having had huge hits in earlier decades with Jaws and E.T. The Extraterrestrial and he found his next big idea in the bestselling novel by Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, about a wealthy man who discovers a way of bringing dinosaurs back to life with the idea of creating a theme park where they could be seen. The movie opened with $47 million in June 1993 on its way to $357 million (not adjusted for inflation) making it the third highest-grossing movie behind Star Wars and E.T. Even 22 years later, Jurassic Park is still in the Top 20 highest-grossing movies with the addition $45 million it made from its 20th Anniversary 3D rerelease in 2013.
Four years later, Spielberg directed the sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park, also based on a Crichton novel, and that opened with $90.2 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend in 1997, which at the time and for a long time after that, would remain the biggest opening for a movie. (These days, that $72.1 three-day opening of The Lost World isn’t nearly as impressive, but back then it was huge.)
In 2001, Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnson was hired to continue the franchise with Jurassic Park III, which surprisingly, opened much weaker with just $50.7 million and grossing $181 million. That still wasn’t bad for 14 years ago, but it wasn’t anything particularly groundbreaking, which may have been why we didn’t see a fourth installment for so long.
It’s taken a long time for Steven Spielberg to crack a plot for a fourth movie, but he finally figured it out and hired the unknown Colin Trevorrow, whose indie sci-fi film Safety Not Guaranteed received raves at Sundance, to direct. More importantly, they cast the super-hot Chris Pratt, coming off last year’s blockbusters Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie, to star, which presumably will get a lot more people interested in the movie, in case the dinosaurs themselves are not enough. Pratt is joined by Bryce Dallas Howard, who previously starred in Spider-Man 3, the failed Terminator Salvation relaunch a few years back, and she also appeared in the last couple installments of “The Twilight Saga,” so she’s fairly well known. The rest of the cast is fairly diverse, including Irffan Khan (who also appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man) and even BD Wong is reprising his role from the original Jurassic Park (but sadly, he’s the only returning cast member.)
The aforementioned 3D rerelease of Jurassic Park helped to get a new, younger audience into the movie, which is a great way to help tease the revival of the franchise, which Universal hopes to join the “Fast and Furious” and “Bourne” as one of their mainstays. (Oddly, no sequel has been announced or dated as of yet although other movies coming out this summer already have sequels in the works.)
One great thing going for Jurassic World is its PG-13 rating, which gives it a far wider range of moviegoers that might want to see it, including younger kids with liberal parents who aren’t worried about giving them nightmares for weeks. (It’s a pretty scary movie, but only parents will know how their kids will react to an Indominus Rex on the rampage and whether they want to spend the next few weeks sharing a bed with scared kids.)
Jurassic World is also the only new movie in wide release this weekend, opening a week after two R-rated films and a horror movie, none of which have as much mainstream appeal as this summer tentpole, which will have far wider appeal to different demographics. That should allow it to dominate as other older returning movies start losing theaters.
While reviews are still under embargo, I think they will generally be good as will the reaction among audiences, so buzz will continue to build leading into the weekend, helping convince the doubters (see below) that Jurassic World is worth seeing.
Though kids, especially younger boys, generally love dinosaurs, parents with kids under 9 or 10 might be wary of bringing them to see the movie because there’s a lot of potential for gory dinosaur violence that might be too intense for them. And with Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out opening next weekend, parents might be fine holding off taking their kids to the movies for one more week.
It has been 14 years since the last installment of the series, which might make one wonder how much the franchise will be relying on adults and parents to introduce their kids to the movies in the time since Jurassic Park 3. The original Jurassic Park is beloved enough that you would think that the prime teen audience will have seen it (even if it was the 3D version for 2013), so this might not be a big problem. George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road has generally been doing well despite there not being an installment of that franchise in thirty years.
On the other hand, not everyone is so gung-ho about this relaunch as a lot of the cynical internet geek crowd have been down on this movie from the first trailers that showed the plot involving a genetically-modified dinosaur. There’s also been criticism (again, from the trailers) about the quality and amount of CG even though the technology used to create the dinosaurs is heads and shoulders ahead of where it was 14 years ago. I guess more moviegoers are starting to enjoy the use of practical stunts like in Mad Max: Fury Road, so when you see Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle surrounded by velociraptors, it’s hard not to be cynical.
Although reviews should generally be good, Universal has requested that reviews be held until Wednesday, which is an odd decision since good reviews might help change some of the minds above who are dubious of the relaunch. Strong reviews could make a big difference for the doubters and haters.
With enough interest and demand among all four quadrants of moviegoers—moreso than many other recent movies–the low-end for this one should be around $100 million, although how much more than that it will make will depend on whether word-of-mouth from those early Thursday/Friday screenings carry through the weekend. With Inside Out and Ted 2 opening over the next two weeks, it might be hard to hold on, but there should be enough business now that schools are out to keep it going through July. Expect it to end up with a domestic total of $260 to 270 million or more if it catches on.
This Weekend Last Year
For the second year in a row, an animated family film took on an R-rated movie with two sequels to hugely successful movies opening this weekend, theoretically splitting audiences between parents/kids and high school/college-age moviegoers. While it was expected by many that How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to DreamWorks Animations’ 2010 hit Oscar-nominated film, would win the weekend over the Jonah Hill-Channing Tatum comedy sequel 22 Jump Street (Sony), that’s not what happened. The latter ended up as the #1 movie of the weekend with $57 million and $17,300 per theater, while How To Train Your Dragon 2 faltered with just $49.5 million and $11,627 per theater. The Top 10 grossed $177 million, which will only be beaten if Jurassic World does even better than I predicted.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
It’s great to have a weekend where it’s so blatantly obvious what will win the weekend and by a wide margin, and the only real question is not so much whether Jurassic World will hit $100 million in its opening weekend but how much more than that it can make. (Note: There’s a chance that Roadside Attractions’ Brian Wilson film Love & Mercy might break into the bottom of the Top 10 bumping Aloha if it expands into more theaters on Friday.)
UPDATE: Our source for theater counts is still being slow with updating on Thursday nights although we do have a higher theater count for Jurassic World than we originally projected. A lot of other outlets are predicting an opening in the $125-130 million region and maybe ticket sales warrant it but the reaction to the movie has been more mixed than we previously assume and there could be a certain amount of misreading of the tracking by those getting their hands on it. I’m thinking it’s probably going to end up with $45 million plus on Friday (including Thursday previews) but will tail off on the weekend since it is summer and most younger people won’t be in school.
1. Jurassic World (Universal) – $112.8 million N/A (up $5.6 million)
Pixar Animation and Oscar-winning Up director Pete Docter are back with Inside Out (Disney•Pixar), an animated look into the mind of 11-year-old Riley featuring the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and more, as well as Rick Famuyiwa’s Sundance favorite Dope (Open Road).
This Week’s Must-Sees
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Fox Searchlight)
The Yes Men Are Revolting (The Orchard)
It opens in New York at the IFC Center on Friday, June 12 (after playing as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival) as well as in other cities. You can find out where and when it’s playing on the Official Site.
Live from New York! (Abramorama)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Eli Roth Presents: The Stranger (IFC Midnight)
Madame Bovary (Alchemy)
Set Fire to the Stars
Soaked in Bleach (Leveraging Emerging Pictures)
The Wolfpack (Magnolia)
Vendetta (Lionsgate/WWE Studios)
You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.
Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas