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Top 10 Takeaways: How ‘Jurassic World’ Broke Box Office Records

Top 10 Takeaways: How 'Jurassic World' Broke Box Office Records

Jurassic World” (Universal) led the way to may be the highest total domestic three-day weekend ever in theaters–and even adjusting for ticket prices– it’s close to the biggest ever in total attendance (approaching 30 million tickets sold). The dinosaurs led the way, but the rest of the pack also showed some strength.

No question: “Jurassic World” (Universal) is huge and historic, it’s close to 50% better than high-end expectations of its performance. But coming after a muted early summer box office — hardly a disaster, but not as strong as advance predictions — for certain titles, with the right timing and all cylinders firing,  there’s still s shot for a single film to capture massive attention and draw close to 20 million paying customers over a weekend.

The heat is on in theaters. The estimated $204,600,000 gross in raw numbers is second-best ever (“The Avengers” is best at $207 million), but also second best when adjusted for inflation, and even though 3D premiums (in this case, about 48% of the gross) add to the take, it’s the third-highest in terms of attendees. And with two giant animated releases in the offing (“Inside Out” and “The Minions”) and other anticipated franchise titles just ahead, recent signs of weakness may have been misleading.

This is a badly needed boost. Not only had grosses since March through last weekend fallen 11% from last year, last week also brought dire news of Relativity’s struggles to refinance, a likely $140 million loss for Disney from “Tomorrowland,” and a Brad Pitt deal with deep-pocketed Netflix.

In short, “Jurassic World” brings the welcome assurance that theaters aren’t exactly dinosaurs.

The Top Ten

1. Jurassic World (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 59; Est, production budget $150 million
$204,600,000 in 3,274 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $47,871; Cumulative: $204,600,000
2. Spy (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend: #1
$16,000,000 (-45%%) in 3,715 theaters (+4); PSA: $5,039; Cumulative: $56,937,000
3. San Andreas (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend: #2
$11,010,000 (-57%) in 3,535 theaters (-277); PSA: $3,115; Cumulative: $119,321,000
4. Insidious Chapter 3 (Relativity) Week 2; Last weekend: #3
$7,300,000 (-68%) in 3,014 theaters (+12); PSA: $2,422; Cumulative: $37,371,000
5. Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend: #6
$6,000,000 (-21%) in 2,677 theaters (-726); PSA: $2,241; Cumulative: $170,715,000
6. Entourage (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend: #4
$4,340,000 (-58%) in 3,108 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,396; Cumulative: $25,870,000
7. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend: #5
$4,130,000 (-47%) in 2,234 theaters (-486); PSA: $1,849; Cumulative: $138,608,000
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Buena Vista) Week 7; Last weekend: #8
$3,641.000 (-43%) in 2,156 theaters (-315); PSA: $1,689; Cumulative: $444,743,000
9. Tomorrowland (Buena Vista) Week 3; Last weekend: #7
$3,417,000 (-52%) in 2,540 theaters (-472); PSA: $1,345; Cumulative: $83,607,000
10. Love and Mercy (Roadside Attractions) Week 2; Last weekend: #11
$1,765,000 (-17%) in 573 theaters (+92); PSA: $3,080; Cumulative: $4,774,000

The Takeaways

Let’s put the numbers in context:

1. “Jurassic World” grossed an estimated $204 million-plus domestic –and a total $511 million worldwide. The latter is a record, although the international end ($307 million) is just short what “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows Part 2” took in. (Foreign is more difficult to compare than domestic, due to uneven release patterns and fluctuating currency values). Record or not, it’s massive.

2. The biggest domestic opening in over three years, since “The Avengers”($207 million). It would only take a 1% weekend estimate for this to exceed that, though over rather than under estimates tend to be more common.

3. “Jurassic World” cost a reported $150 million (plus marketing). That’s $100 million less than “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Without even getting into the synergy of theme park and other ancillary value, this is going to be a huge profit maker for Universal.

4. Declining 3D accounted for 48% of the “Jurassic World” gross. That’s about 40% of the tickets sold. IMAX also added to the haul.

5. Attendees were 52% male, 48% female, 39% under 25. These show a balanced across the board response, not that common recently.

6. The Top Ten came in at about $260 million, the best figure ever. That’s $83 million, or 47% better than the same weekend in 2015. Even better, that was the best total for all last summer. Last year saw two openers: “22 Jump Street” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” which combined to gross $116 million, with three other films holding to $14 million or better. This year only “Spy” ($16 million) managed better than $12 million. So it is mainly “Jurassic” related.

7. The year to date increase nearly doubled from last weekend’s mark, now just under 4%.

Steven Spielberg: King of June

A lot of the pre-opening focus on “Jurassic World” was on whether it would break the June domestic mark of $116 million set by “Man of Steel” (ironically, the Warner Bros. release was also produced in association with Legendary Pictures, which is now allied with Universal). That turned out to have been left in the dust. But the June date combined with a reborn Spielberg factor seem to be key reasons for this success.

Forty years ago this week, “Jaws” became the first initial wide-release blockbuster ever. Before then, nearly all movies, including the biggest hits from “Birth of the Nation” and “Gone With the Wind” to “Ben-Hur,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Godfather,” had always opened in staggered, limited big city release, often taking months and longer to reach a wide audience. This same-day across the country release, plus the reliance on the then-new practice of buying TV ads (virtually never done before the early 1970s) made “Jaws” the most significant shift in distribution patterns since “Birth” 60 years earlier.

“Jaws” was a June release. In fact, Spielberg, still regarded as the industry’s reigning hitmaker (only James Cameron and Peter Jackson come close as name directors), scored his biggest successes opening in June. Adjusted to inflation, “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” and “Jaws” (both the equivalent of over $1 billion in domestic box office), “Jurassic Park” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” all were released (in three cases by Universal) in June.

Even more stunning, the four biggest films ever initially released in June are Spielberg films (excluding the totals from “The Empire Strikes Back” including its later reissue). And even more remarkably, since 2010 until “Jurassic World,” none of the 19 biggest opening weekends occurred in June. 

But June has fallen into some disfavor as the month of choice for highest-end releases, for reasons that might not be readily imagined. In part, this has been driven by domestic concerns — with holidays falling in late May and early July, logic suggested the top entries grab these dates (long in advance), and then play through non-holiday summer weeks. Also, since top films used to open in the U.S. first and then later overseas, particularly in the case of Memorial Day openings, this still allowed for prime early summer dates elsewhere. That delay now is mostly gone, and with less holiday tie-ins internationally, those date are less vital.

Also, top films tend to come in less competitive opening weekends (one of the reasons the first one in May has become so popular), and by the time June comes around it’s rare to see other studios vacate a date just to get out of the way of one juggernaut. In this case, they did anticipate “Jurassic” and steered clear. It will be interesting to see if this causes a future strategic shift.

“Jurassic” also gained by the lackluster overall response of late. Again, individual films have done decently or better, but despite “Furious 7” in April and the strong (but lesser than the first time) “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” nothing since has approached such a massive draw. Summer, when all schools are off, can help a film that sounds like family fun and a group activity, with potential to get maximum attention. Earlier Spielberg films played off this — he has an uncanny ability to hit four-quadrant mass audience appeal, that is easy to exploit just about now. (Christmas week is even more concentrated but also has that potential.)  

And then there is the Spielberg brand. Unlike the first two, he didn’t direct this (similar to 2001’s “Jurassic Park III” and all of the “Jaws” sequels). His Amblin Entertainment coproduced and he served as an executive producer, though, and this still has a Spielberg feel to it. But this is clear evidence that his brand — more than Michael Bay or Christopher Nolan– is magic when attached to the right vehicle. And “Jurassic,” with the fond memories held by part of the audience that now is raising families from when they were kids, with the right mix of adventure, thrills, and movie magic at the mild end of the PG-13 spectrum, clearly hit the spot. Plus the pent-up demand for a safe, fun movie (again June was ideal) helped propel this further into the stratosphere.

There’s another film ahead that could be similar. Expectations are also sky high for December’s “Star Wars – The Force Awakens.”

Universal is on a winning streak
Since November and $40-million hit “Dumb and Dumber Too” ($170 million worldwide), they’ve scored with a diverse and profitable slate: “Unbroken” ($161 million), “Fifty Shades of Grey” ($570 million), “Furious 7” ($1.5 billion), “Pitch Perfect 2” ($260 million) appealing to a range of audiences, both domestic and foreign, male and female (three were directed by women). Some lower-budgeted entries did less well, but the only big loser among them (it happens to the best) is “Blackhat,” a huge ouch at under $18 million with a $70 million budget pre-marketing. Universal will be competitive for top studio share this year with Disney and Warners. And whatever their market share, on balance they boast a less expensive slate that could easily make them the most profitable among the Hollywood majors, which matters most.


“Jurassic” didn’t totally destroy the competition. The relatively small $60 million for the nine holdovers comes from their overall less-than-stellar performances last weekend. Still, five of nine pictures dropping less than 50% is a healthy result. Best by far among those not expanding is “Pitch Perfect 2,” down only 21% in its fifth weekend, and actually ranking higher than its sixth spot the previous week. In tenth, Roadside Attractions’ “Love & Mercy” fell less — 17% — helped by adding 92 theaters to reach a still limited 573. “

Spy” held best of the second week wide releases, down 45%. This is a bigger drop than Melissa McCarthy’s three earlier lead role releases; coming off a disappointing opening, it doesn’t portend a long future. Long-running and strong-holding “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” dropped 47 and 43% respectively, while “Entourage” (-58%) and “Insidious Chapter 3” (-68%) look to be facing a dim future beyond one more week at most theaters.

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