Jurassic World
Courtesy of Universal

The dinosaurs of Universal’s “Jurassic World” have stormed the U.S. box office with $18.5 million at 3,229 U.S. locations from Thursday night showings that started at 7 p.m.

It’s Universal’s biggest latenight showing ever, topping the $15.8 million launch on by “Furious 7” in April on its way to a $147.2 million opening weekend. Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” posted the year’s top Thursday preview number with $27.6 million to start its $191.3 million opening weekend.

Forecasts for the weekend opening have tabbed “Jurassic World” at around $125 million across 4,273 U.S. theaters. Universal has made a more conservative projection of a debut north of $100 million — a mark that’s been topped by only 30 titles.

Legendary Pictures co-financed the $150 million production. Chris Pratt, hot off of last summer’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” stars as a dino trainer alongside Vincent D’Onofrio, Bryce Dallas Howard and a host of fearsome reptiles led by the Indominus rex. Colin Trevorrow, noted for Sundance favorite “Safety Not Guaranteed,” directs.

The fourth installment in the prehistoric franchise is also rolling out in 66 international territories this weekend. “Jurassic World” opened Wednesday with $24.5 million at 6,824 theaters in China, France and six smaller territories, including $3.5 million in latenight previews in a dozen other markets. China delivered $17.2 million, making “Jurassic World” the sixth-biggest debut for a foreign film ever in China.

“Jurassic World” will probably have grossed more than $350 million worldwide by weekend’s end, thanks to a massive promotional campaign and the good will from the three previous films — the last of which opened in 2001. Universal began launching spots last November and boosted awareness significantly with a well-received Super Bowl spot.

Steven Spielberg, director of the first two “Jurassic Park” films in 1993 and 1997, acted as executive producer. Legendary’s Thomas Tull also exec produced. The film was produced by Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley.

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