‘Jurassic’ has exhibs rapt

Monday night’s last-minute, nationwide “Jurassic Park” screenings for film buyers brought exhibitors out in record numbers and apparently didn’t disappoint them.

“It’s a megahit,” said John Krier, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. “The special effects are excellent.”

On Tuesday morning, the consensus among film buyers on the West and East Coasts was that Universal had a big picture on its hands, with most pegging the picture the movie over $ 125 million. A few others took it a step further, predicting the pricey pic would do a minimum $ 185 million.

“It will be in the $ 200 million ballpark,” said Cineplex Odeon executive veepee Neil Blatt, who heads up film buying operations for the circuit’s 1,715 screens in North America. “Steven Spielberg has done an incredible job of recreating dinosaurs, which previously only existed in our imaginations.”

MCA/Universal is a major investor in the Cineplex circuit.

While the studio usually screens pix for buyers up to four weeks prior to their openings, last-minute work on “Jurassic” has put the buyers’ screening into “a very hurried program,” said Fred Mound, president of U Distribution. He said the exhibitors set attendance records for Universal.

On Monday night, screenings were held in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas. Screenings in eight more cities and in Canada were skedded Tuesday night.

Screenings in the rest of the country, including Puerto Rico, will be held by week’s end.

“These aren’t even final prints because of a few credits,” Mound said. “We won’t get those until next week.”

Official release date is June 11.

Now, with the movie exposed to exhibitors, the real business begins.

While Universal exex would not comment on details, sources said the studio is hammering out stiff deals for the summer tentpoles, with several exhibition industry sources confirming that the studio wants a heady 60-65% of every box office dollar for “Jurassic.”

“If they’re looking for 60-65% aggregrate, all we can hope for is that the pictures will play for a long time,” said one exhibition executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The negotiations are taut, primarily because Universal and 20th Century Fox are the only two studios that negotiate on the basis of “firm terms,” which means financial terms agreed upon prior to opening are not reviewable after a movie closes. Other studios settle with movie theaters after a movie has played out, which makes the booking process more relaxed.

There were other reports that the numbers were even more murderous than expected, including some speculation that U would look for an unheard-of 80% of the box office receipts.

“As an exhibitor, I would never agree to 80% minimums on the first week of a picture,” Blatt said. “I’m certainly willing to pay a higher percentage of the gross on $ 200 million pictures if they can be delivered with frequency. Retention is the name of the game.”

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