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How ‘Jurassic World’ Ran Away with the Summer Box Office

How 'Jurassic World' Ran Away with the Summer Box Office

While this past holiday weekend didn’t yield a rare four Summer weekends at number one for “Jurassic World, ” that minor glitch shouldn’t take away from its amazing success and how it got there.

“Jurassic World”‘s achievement is huge, not only due to its huge opening but also ongoing sustained interest. In 24 days of release, its domestic gross is $560 million, which in unadjusted numbers is by far the best ever (second best “The Avengers” amassed $524 million by the same point in 2011). Actually, even in adjusted numbers it seems to be ahead of James Cameron’s two blockbusters “Titanic” and “Avatar,” though those films were Christmas openers and long-playing Oscar contenders leading both to an ultimate response higher than “Jurassic World” will ever achieve. It is also better than “Star Wars” and “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,” the all-time summer champions (both films led most weekends throughout their respective summers and into the fall, leading to the equivalent of over $1 billion in gross). 

This summer’s record grosses for Universal sequel “Jurassic World” single-handedly reversed a recent downward trend that looked like it was taking hold. No question: “Jurassic World” is huge and historic, opening close to 50% better than high-end expectations of its performance. (“Inside Out” then piggybacked on this and showed that two huge hits could coexist, even though they substantially shared their core family audience.)

“Jurassic World” led the way to the highest total –domestic and worldwide– 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 movie notched $208.8 million in North America, passing 2012’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” ($207 million), and internationally, the film’s opening gross was $315.3 million, passing 2011’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” ($314 million). 

“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. Declining 3D accounted for 48% of the “Jurassic World” gross. That’s about 40% of the tickets sold. IMAX also added to the haul. The initial attendees were 52% male, 48% female, 39% under 25: that’s a balanced across-the-board response.

“Jurassic” connected to fond childhood memories held by part of the audience that now is raising families, and brought the right mix of adventure, spectacular VFX, thrills, romance, casting (Chris Pratt is hot off “Guardians of the Galaxy”), and movie magic at the mild end of the PG-13 spectrum. Plus the pent-up demand for a safe, fun movie for all ages helped to propel this further into the stratosphere.

Read: With ‘Jurassic World’ Blockbuster, Universal is On a Roll

This performance proves that for certain titles, with the right timing and all cylinders firing, there’s still a shot for a single film to capture massive attention and draw close to 20 million paying customers over a weekend. “Jurassic World” brings the welcome assurance that theaters aren’t exactly dinosaurs.

“Jurassic World” continued with the second best second weekend ever (just behind the first “The Avengers”), dropping just 51%, much less than most second stanzas of monster hits, and reached $ billion worldwide and $400 million domestic way ahead of any other 2014 release.

And it went on to top the charts for a third week, finally losing Number One to ‘Inside Out” over the July 4th holiday. Totals through Monday brings the movie close to $560 million in 25 days, with an average  take of $22.4 million per day. 

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 Warner Bros’/DC’s “Man of Steel” (also partnered 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 are key reasons for this success.
June and the Spielberg Factor

Forty years ago, “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 (three 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. 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 less 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 the Colin Trevorrow movie still has a Spielberg feel. But this is clear evidence that his brand — even more than Michael Bay or Christopher Nolan– is magic when attached to the right vehicle. 
Another film ahead could outperform this one. Expectations are sky high for December’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

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