Without a single ticket sold in the U.S., “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” has made over $420 million and is the seventh highest-grossing global release of the year. (It’s fifth among American studio films; Chinese domestic smashes “Detective Chinatown 2” and “Operation Red Sea” rank at numbers 2 and 5 worldwide, respectively.)
In the new paradigm when foreign grosses absorb 65 percent or more of the gross, international openings a week in advance of domestic release aren’t uncommon. Marvel did it for “Thor: Ragnorok” and “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Despicable Me 3” opened 16 days prior. But “Fallen Kingdom” is somewhat unusual in that the 2015 “Jurassic World” not only was a massive domestic hit (adjusted $704 million, second-biggest gross since “Avatar”), but it also generated an unusually high 39 percent of its total in North America.
So why the domestic delay? Here’s some of the factors that studios weigh when they decide to position release dates.
The U.S. falls out of sync
Once every four years, the World Cup predetermines many June release dates. Outside the U.S. it provides massive competition, even bigger than the Olympics. This year, it began June 14 and will last a month. Opening “Fallen Kingdom” June 8 (June 15 in China, not soccer obsessed) gave it a jump start. Similarly, the international prioritization means domestic holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July no longer carry the same weight in determining release dates.
Reaction to U.S. release schedule
The delayed North American release may have reflected concern over “Solo: A Star Wars Story” being a potential threat. (June 8 would have been its third weekend.) There also was competition from “Ocean’s 8,” and the juggernaut of “Incredibles 2” a week later. With June 22, “Fallen Kingdom” has a clear shot until July 6 with “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” This is finely tuned release-calendar finessing that might risk overthinking.
Reviews do(n’t) matter
Domestic critics weighed in when the film opened overseas, with withering results. (It stands at 51 on Metacritic, below even “Solo.”) Two weeks later, however, they aren’t top of mind in a North American news cycle that always seems to be stuck on high.
Staggered dates help publicity
In the past, studios staggered international releases — the better to allow talent to make personal appearances. That’s in play here, only the junkets for “Fallen Kingdom” went foreign first, domestic later.
Box-office news affects hype
At the risk of seeming self serving, studios take box-office coverage very seriously — especially with the amplification of social media and rabid fanbases. Without China, “Fallen Kingdom” debuted to a huge $155 million its first weekend (more than “Solo” made in its entire foreign run). And when “Fallen Kingdom” opened in China, it made another $112 million.
As word gets around, it increases curiosity and provides the film with an aura of success. If the film opened day and date worldwide, it wouldn’t have the same benefit.
Combatting sequel fatigue
The success of two Marvel films in less than a month, as well as “Incredibles 2,” show great franchises can repeatedly score; “Solo” proved even the strongest can find skepticism. So while the 2015 “Jurassic World” was massive, it’s uncertain the fifth outing in Dino Land will do the same. “Solo” isn’t necessarily a harbinger, but tried-and-true titles find less resistance overseas than at home, particularly when a film is designed to appeal to the widest audience.
Pre-opening estimates range from $125 million to $150 million, and it’s possible that Universal might have gone day-and-date if they felt a North American opening about $150 million was guaranteed. If you don’t make comparisons to 2015 (adjusted opening, $231 million), that would be terrific, especially since “Fallen Kingdom” already stands to make over $600 million in the rest of the world.