‘Jurassic World’: 5 Key Reasons It Was a Box Office Monster

Jurassic World
Courtesy of Universal

Jurassic World” stunned the movie business this weekend with its massive $204.6 million opening.

It’s the second-biggest debut in history and a sign that a franchise that appeared to have run out of gas 14 years ago, when “Jurassic Park III” petered out with $368.8 million at the global box office, has been reinvigorated.

So how did Universal Pictures, the studio behind the dinosaur thriller, pull off the cinematic comeback? Here are five key ingredients in the summer blockbuster’s success:

1.) Chris Pratt is a star. Period.

In an era of would-be leading men like Jai Courtney and Garrett Hedlund, Pratt shows what a true movie star looks like. After “Guardians of the Galaxy” proved he was an actor to watch, with his tongue-in-cheek work as a galactic adventurer drawing comparisons to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, “Jurassic World” offers up a second major franchise to stick in his quiver. That’s a feat that only a handful of actors have achieved, putting him in elite company with Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes), Jennifer Lawrence (“X-Men,” “The Hunger Games”) and Ford himself (the “Indiana Jones” films, “Star Wars”). If rumors are true, and Pratt assumes Ford’s bullwhip in a planned reboot of Indiana Jones, he could score a blockbuster trifecta.

“He’s the modern action hero,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s self-deprecating. I call him Jimmy Stewart in a leather vest. He just has the perfect sensibility for today’s audiences.”

But Pratt’s contributions extended beyond his onscreen work as a velociraptor trainer. He was an indefatigable pitchman for the film. His preemptive Facebook apology for anything he will say during “Jurassic World’s” press tour inspired headlines and showed a deft feel for social media. Even hiccups, like when Pratt stumbled over the meaning of “impotent,” proved the adage that all publicity is good publicity.

Somebody’s passion projects are about to get a greenlight. So if Pratt has ever wanted to play a second century fresco painter struggling with gonorrhea or something equally uncommercial, now is the time to make that ask.

2.) Timing is everything.

“Jurassic World” was shrewdly positioned as the June blockbuster to beat, ceding April to “Furious 7” and steering clear of “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” May release. After “Tomorrowland” flopped over Memorial Day, there was some gum-flapping among box office analysts about whether Universal erred in not putting “Jurassic World” over the four-day holiday. In retrospect, it was the perfect move. The box office, which was coming off of three consecutive lackluster weekends, needed to cool down before it could heat up again.

“You could see this coming after a number of films that didn’t live up to expectations,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “There was just this hunger for a big summer tentpole film.”

The studio benefited from timing of another sort. Over the past decade and a half, the fourth “Jurassic Park” saw various filmmakers and screenwriters , such as “The Departed’s” William Monahan and “I Robot’s” Alex Proyas, come on board before getting tossed aside after failing to find the right creative direction for the film. The tortured development worked in “Jurassic World’s” favor, giving it distance from “Jurassic World III,” which is generally considered to be the series’ nadir, and lending the franchise a feeling of freshness.

3.) The right director can make you almost forget about Spielberg.

Nobody can outshine Steven Spielberg, but with the “Jurassic Park” director unwilling to return to Isla Nublar, Universal settled for the next best thing — a filmmaker on the rise, who could pay homage to Spielberg’s creation while taking the series in a younger and vibrant direction. It found him in Colin Trevorrow, an indie impresario who had made a stir with “Safety Not Guaranteed.”

Trevorrow’s time-travel comedy demonstrated the kind of fantastical humanism and ability to tap into childlike wonder that is Spielberg’s stock-in-trade, making him a worthy successor to the man who ushered in the age of the summer blockbuster with “Jaws.”

“He has extraordinary energy and he had a vision from day one about what this film could be,” said Nick Carpou, president of domestic distribution at Universal. “His determination comes through.”

It also ranks as another example of major studios raiding Sundance,  South by Southwest and their festival ilk for behind-the-camera talent to helm their most important franchises — an approach that previously yielded Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” and Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” efforts. Nothing beats commodifying some indie spirit.

4.) Premium formats are prime.

The Indominus rex, basically a T-rex on steroids, demanded to be seen on the biggest, widest, most souped up screens possible. That meant that “Jurassic World” got a major boost from premium large format and Imax screens, along with 3D showings. The sequel took in 48% of its domestic opening weekend receipts from 3D screens, while setting new high-water marks for Imax and private label PLF screens.

Those formats were in their infancy when “Jurassic Park III” was in theaters — 3D was still a novelty and Imax was reserved for nature films.

“I use my kids as a bit of a barometer,” said Anthony Marcoly, president of worldwide cinema for 3D-maker RealD. “They’ve seen the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies before, but they’ve seen them on TV or DVD. They haven’t had a chance to see a ‘Jurassic’ movie on these big [premium large format] screens or in 3D. People wanted to be brought into the world of ‘Jurassic’ and to see it in a grand fashion and just be drawn into the story.”

It also helped that Trevorrow talked up the virtues of seeing “Jurassic World” with all the extra bells and whistles on promotional videos and by appearing before screenings at the Imax TCL Theater in Los Angeles.

“This is a shared experience,” he told the crowd at one of these events. “It’s why we go to the movies.”

The exhibition industry has taken its knocks for not keeping up with the digital revolution that has upended the entertainment landscape, but “Jurassic World’s” success with tinted specs and sprawling screens demonstrates the lengths that theaters have gone to differentiate their experience from the one found in the living room or at the keyboard. Times have changed, of course, but some of it’s for the better.

5.) Dinosaurs ripping apart humans = appropriate for children of all ages.

It’s been 23 years since “Jurassic Park” first illustrated the dangers of bringing velociraptors back to life, and in that time one generation of film fans has come of age and another has emerged. That means that a group of moviegoers who were first weaned on popcorn pics with that first film have grown up and were eager to introduce their sons and daughters to the magic of a T-rex rampage.

To familiarize a new group to the pleasures of the park, Universal reissued “Jurassic Park” in 3D in 2013 in conjunction with its 20th anniversary. It also primed the pump in a nice piece of corporate synergy, hosting a special presentation of “Jurassic Park” last week on NBCUniversal Networks that included interviews with Pratt and Spielberg. The film and TV stations share a corporate parent in Comcast.

The PG-13 rating made the prospect of seeing pterosaurs treat tourists like birdseed something of a family event. That resulted in an opening weekend crowd that was 39% under the age of 25, a demographic that hadn’t been born or was barely verbal when the first film debuted.

“We’re getting everybody and that includes parents with kids,” said Carpou.

Hollywood take note. That’s how you build a blockbuster.

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  1. Darrel says:

    I”m ready to see this again I just saw a commercial saying there bringing it back to Imax. Who’s with me?

  2. Austin Whitley says:

    OMG!This movie was amazing, the original doesn’t even compare to this at all. Total annihilation of the whole series.

  3. Peter says:

    the movie was boring, the actors forgettable

  4. Fran says:

    the movie was boring, the actors forgettable.. worst ever

  5. kelly says:

    the first one was better…this was amazingly well made and entertaining …felt like Avatar CGI special effects were mixed with Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park was so real so scary i jumped out of my seat….this one …cool special effect amazingly acted entertaining and a lot of hype…

  6. rowana says:

    The question will be if Pratt can survive what inevitably happens to leading men when they step outside the genre that made them a superstar and try more daring, less commercial fare. THEN the media piles on, as unfair as it may be, and implies that the star is somehow “washed up” or “can’t draw an audience outside the (fill in the blank) franchise.” He’s hot now, but just wait for the inevitable media backlash in a few years when he tries something else and it doesn’t go over.

    It just happened to Robert Downey Jr. – a viable superstar if ever there was one – when he “dared” to step outside his blockbuster action genre to make “The Judge,” a small family drama that in no one’s universe was EVER going to be a huge hit or make anywhere near a percentage of the bank that “Avengers” or “Sherlock Holmes” makes. And yet he was lambasted by the media when, surprise, “The Judge” didn’t do great box office (although it did produce an Oscar nomination, but Hollywood measures “success” by money, not really by Oscar…). I mean LAMBASTED – “is RDJ’s moment over?” “will he have to RUN back to Marvel?” Which is ridiculous. But it’s how the media, in its craze for “hot” headlines, operates – as we all know, these things go in cycles, and who’s “hot” today will be pulled down tomorrow. The trick is in surviving that and following your artistic passion.

    Come on, media. Actors are actors – if they’re good and if they’re adventurous, they will try many different genres in the courses of their careers – and if they’re charismatic and lucky, they’ll once in a while have a huge hit or two. But they can’t be hit machines all their lives – or, well, they could try, but they’d run the risk of becoming Sly Stallone and doing Rocky XXVII when they’re 75. Pratt, aside from TV, made some smaller, adventurous movies before he hit in “Guardians,” and he’ll do so again. So will Downey. And some will be hits and some will be misses – it is INEVITABLE, in a long career.

  7. Mike Land says:

    Infants, toddlers, 2 year olds, and plenty of 5 year olds are now going to want a re-release of Jurassic Park having seen the 1992 tan Sahara’s being driven by a 11 year old kid.

  8. 1. dinosaurs, 2. dinosaurs, 3. dinosaurs, 4. Chris Pratt, and 5. dinosaurs

  9. Brea Drake says:

    It was simply epic. My husband and I, took all of our “children” to see it. A 23 year old, a 22 year old, a 19 year old, and two 16 year olds. It was a very special to me, because my father had taken our family to the movies to see the first Jurassic Park movie when I was a teenager. This movie did not disappoint. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. 5+ stars! =)

  10. ReaperCDN says:

    “Nobody can outshine Steven Spielberg”

    Incorrect. If that was true, we’d never see any decent movies again. Joss Whedon is incredible, and as far as I’m concerned, far superior to Spielberg on every level. Yes, Speilberg did great things, past tense. In that vein though he’s just like Ridley Scott and Wes Craven. Their time has come and gone, and the new power houses are going to be different, and clearly outshine the old masters. After all, they can build on the things that the old guys couldn’t, giving us new and fresh products that embrace everything we know and love about this genre of films. And in twenty years, they’ll be replaced by new blood who does it again, and again, and again.

    • Duder NME says:

      Sounds mechanically dour. Artists are only worthy long enough to be replaced by alleged successors? Are “bigger and better” the only true goals of cinema? I say thee FOH.

  11. Pratt being in the movie has little to do with it’s success…..its all about the dinosaurs…….and the dream deferred…………………

  12. Zoe Saldana was left out? Star Trek, Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy. If anything, she is the queen of film series.

  13. Cath says:

    This movie was a bit fat FAIL!! Simply terrible, bad cast, bad script, very thin on plot, and no real star.

    • rubi says:

      Fucking hater, then why are you reading info regarding the movie then

      • Rodrigo says:

        That’s right!!

      • Cath says:

        Rude, rude, rude, disgusting words, now go wash your mouth out with soap and toilet water! Sounds like you were not raised in the real world where people can share their opinions honestly and openly. The reason why so many people (like me) went to see the film, we are all Jurassic fans, but this film seriously fell flat, that is the truth. But thank you for exposing your vulgar grammar as it exposes your education level.

    • Nicholas says:

      This movie was a simply epic. Simply epic, epic cast, epic script, very epic on adventure, and epic stars [Pratt, Aunt Claire, two children, hot assistant, etc.).

      • Cath says:

        Still a big fat FAIL. I only every saw it once, no need to waste anymore time to see it a second time, that is time I will never get back in my life! First Jurassic Park is best. Should have put some link into this new one with the original cast members. It just fell flat!

    • Cath says:

      I liked the movie the first time I saw it. I even liked it better the second time.

    • Richard says:

      Yes a 500m …A CinemaScore …FAIL …we should all fail so big . Could it have had a stronger script yes …but sometimes more nuanced screenplays don’t play as well to a global audience which you need to engage if you are going to spend 300m to make and market dinos running amok on an island theme park .

  14. melissa says:

    Jai Courtney is really great too……………..

  15. Marco M says:

    The #1 reason is dinosaurs. Especially big dinosaurs!

  16. I love Chris Pratt, and have for a long time. He’s amazing on Parks and Rec (Burt Macklin for the win), but I even remember him from Everwood with Emily Vancamp (haha yes I had to do the hipster “I knew him first” thing). He didn’t make me go see this movie – I will see LITERALLY ANYTHING with realistic looking dinosaurs (do you hear me Hollywood?? ANYTHING!! I enjoyed the heck out of JPIII, that spinosaurus was the bomb!), but CP was a big part of why I enjoyed it. He is charismatic as heck, and he did a great job playing a part that could have come off as obnoxious and oafish. I’m not going to say that the romance was one for the ages, but it was fun. I don’t think that every career gal is just in need of a good roll in the hay to show her what’s REALLY important in life, but, if it’s Chris Pratt? Go for it girl ;-)

    This movie wasn’t intelligent by any stretch of the imagination, but the plot was a masterpiece of logic and coherence next to dumb flicks like Fast and the Furious 7. I mean it certainly wasn’t realistic on any scale, but it hung together well enough to keep me rooting for everyone without stopping to ask “What? Huh? Why? Based on what???” every 10 seconds (again, unlike F&F7).

    I don’t think Jurassic World had the dramatic tension of number one, and the dinos didn’t look quite as impressive to me as they did in any of the first three. The dino croc was pretty cool, but the rest were just fine. The new species of dino was supposed to be so much cooler than the rex, but they were actually a bit hard to tell apart in the final action scene. However, the idea to open the theme park and then let all hell break lose is the perfect plot to set up juicy mayhem. If you want to see how this type of movie can be much, much worse, compare it to the most recent Godzilla. Godzilla himself looked fine, but the “science” was so stupid, the only character that was anything close to interesting died one fourth of the way in, and worst of all the movie was just boring. Jurassic World wasn’t amazing, but it did a pretty good job of delivering the goods that I wanted!

  17. Charles Torrez says:

    I will be giving Chris Pratt Two thumbs up for an awesome performance and the amount of work he did to get get the job done. Jurrasic World me my wife and our 5 yrs old son went an seen it last night and it was awesome I loved when they brought back the T-rex I loved it the work on the Raptors it’s was awesome to see Chris Pratt take control of the Raptors it was amazing so I give Jurrasic World a 10 Star rating for there hard work blood sweat and tears to make this movie awesome so thank for making it happen and I’m proud that I’ve fought for this country to so the people of Universal to make this movie happen. ********** 10 Star ratings.

  18. kyle says:

    I absolutely agree with most of it except for the part were Chris Pratt is a star. He’s not the best actor in the world there’s thousands of actors and around the world that are ten times better than him he’s just a cute body and cute face that everybody wants

  19. You only had to watch “Parks and Recreation” to see that Pratt has what it takes to be a huge star. He has amazing comic timing, charisma, and he oozes charm and good-nature. Plus, even when unfit (I’m not calling him fat, because I’ve seen pictures of him on the beach when he weighed more, and he was just really thick and soft), he was very attractive. Yes, people went to see this movie because of dinosaurs, but that doesn’t change the fact the Pratt is the real thing. “The Lego Movie,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” now “Jurassic World,” all within the last 18 months. No one else in Hollywood right now can touch that track record.

  20. Chizz McTooth says:

    I love Brent Lang’s weekly box office analysis. Nobody understands the value of mass marketing appeal to the under-18 crowd, how creativity spells financial doom, and the commodifying of some of that pretentious indie spirit like good old Brent. In fact, he and I would surely agree that as long as the rich get richer and the dumb get dumber, Hollywood — i.e. the world and universe entire — is a swell place to live. To hell with cinema… LONG LIVE CAPITALISM!!!!

  21. fred mertz says:

    Anyone who discounts the value of Chris Pratt does so at their own risk. I think he’s the real deal. He’s got that thing, the voice, the attitude… like they said about Clark Gable, “Women want to be with him, men want to be him.” And remember, before he landed “Jurassic World,” before he landed “Guardians” before he landed “Parks and Recreation,” he landed Anna Farris, and he did that while he was chubby.There must be something really there, there.

  22. Jeff says:

    It probably had a huge boost as many institutions are finishing their school years so this weekend was the real kickoff to the summer. The younger audiences need something to do and the movie theatre is the perfect place to kill a couple of hours.

  23. James says:

    Stupidest quote I’ve ever heard in my life:

    I call him(Chris Pratt) Jimmy Stewart in a leather vest.

    Cue eye roll now

  24. Pamela says:

    Actually, I’m more inclined to see a film because of Bryce Dallas Howard rather than Chris Pratt. This movie would have been huge with almost anyone in the lead.

  25. mla28ny says:

    So they raided Sundance for their director? I guess there weren’t any women directors there, huh?

  26. David Vanderbilt says:

    No one went to this movie because of Chris Pratt just the same as no one went to Xmen because of Jennifer Lawrence. Jurassic World was a hit due to childhood NOSTALGIA and a 22 year fanbase. The original movie holds great memories for the original audience and now that audience has children they are both experiencing the movie together. Even the producers knew that nostalgia for Jurassic Park would bring in the audience, that’s why there were so many scenes that were a homage to the original.
    Im so sick of people saying it’s because of the ‘star’.I don’t know anyone who specifically goes to a movie JUST because of the actor, if that was the case wouldn’t Bradley Cooper and Emma Stones movie do better? They have matching popularity ratings with Pratt but there movie bombed.Jennifer Lawrence just had a bomb with Serena. I get it Chris Pratt is the new ‘IT’ guy but claiming HE is the reason it’s a hit is just a joke.

    • brii says:

      I so agree with you. I hate it when people think actors are bringing people to see an already famous franchise. THG, X-Men and Avengers were all famous books/comics before the existence of any movie.

    • Richard says:

      Was Pratt The Reason..NO …was he part of The Reason …YES . I would have gone to see JW no matter how bad…eventually…. but the fact that it had Pratt and actually looked good had my butt in a premium seat Thursday evening . For all the reasons stated Chris Pratt is star he is charismatic good-looking athletic self deprecating and relatable to both men women and even kids . Yes he is in full “Movie Star” mode for these blockbusters but he can do action comedy and drama ( Money Ball, Zero Dark Thirty ) Like him or not has he been in Lego GOTG and now JW all those movies performed well above and beyond expectations …Chris Pratt is a Star. He is now so big he could take a pass on the similar Indy role and do just fine .

    • John says:

      I saw the movie here in China, 90% of the audience were high school and college students, most of them don’t even know who Chris Pratt is even though he was in Guardians of the Galaxy.

    • Anna says:

      Coulnd’t agree more!

      • This is mostly true, but I disagree that Chris Pratt isn’t a big help. After the cringe-worthy embarrassment that was JPIII, I was skeptical of ANY Jurassic Park franchise film that wasn’t directly based on a Michael Crichton novel (not that The Lost World was that great, either), but when I saw last year that they had cast Chris Pratt, I thought, “Oookkk, this COULD actually be really good. Fingers crossed.” While the days of going to a blockbuster JUST because it stars, say, Tom Cruise, are over for now, it’s still important that they cast the right people. I don’t think this article was implying that Pratt was THE reason for the movie’s success, but that he’s one of several big reasons (including the nostalgia factor). And that I agree with.

  27. 6. Or maybe they just got lucky. With that said, I will see the movie either Monday or Tuesday afternoon, I like to go when few people are in the building.

  28. Gaias Child says:

    agree completely with your assessment of Chris Pratt . . . it’s my first time to see him and he’s got all that you say . . . exactly . . . dpes everyone else know Ron Howard’s daughter? She gave a stunning performance and showed a highly stratified complex character and even, well, did that girl action hero thing too . . .

    agree on the direction . . . I positively marveled at the editing . . . there were several scenes that struck me as evocative of other classic scenes . . . at one point, Howard’s character is on the ground and her posture and demeanor evoked (for me) Fay Wray . . . then there’s a scene with a slew of peaceful grazers killed by the she demon hybrid dino . . killed but not eaten . . . and that evoked a scene from Dances with Wolves where the buffalo were hunted for hides and left to rot on the prairie . . . there were a couple more of tthese and right now I forget . . . o yes, the escaping dinos from the aviary while on the predatory wing reminded me of the terrifying monkeys from Wizard of Oz . .

    so I don’t know if any of those were intentional or just resonating in that kind of epic memorable way . . .

    I loved every minute of it, and all the little sub plot conflicts, relationship glitches, misunderstandings, the relationship of the brothers . . . the sisters . . . Auntie Claire is sure going to start her family now . . .

    Great job. Wonderful work for all involved.

    • rowana says:

      Oh my god, that’s NOT true at all. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character was straight out of the 1950s and not at all “nuanced” — good grief, how can you think that?? She was a cardboard character who could have been so much more interesting, and a female character that hit EVERY SINGLE TROPE of the stereotyped “frigid businesswoman turns into warm maternal REAL WOMAN” stereotype. I suppose for junior high kids who’ve never seen a movie before, this is groundbreaking, interesting stuff, but NO, her character was a major FAIL in an otherwise pretty enjoyable movie. As Joss Whedon said, even in the 1970s they were writing women better than this!

    • James says:

      Seriously? I love Bryce Dallas Howard but her character is like from the 50’s, nothing like the powerhouse of Charlize Theron in mad max

      • Cath says:

        Of course she wasn’t like Charlize. It wasn’t the kind of character Bryce was playing. Bryce’s character was more like the characters that Katharine Hepburn played in the thirties and forties, a woman who is success oriented and changes over time according to the plot. Kick butt, no compromise parts like the one played by Charlize are unusual for women and even her character was saved by a couple of guys although one can argue that they were co-equals.

  29. Geri says:

    Imagine how successful it could have been if 1. the plot was better developed, 2. there had been one or two moments when something jumped out to scare the audience, 3. the audience felt like anyone other than an extra was in actual danger, 4. at least some of the stars were unable to outrun a 50′ dinosaur. Stunning to look at, but no reason to see it a second time. I’m always the first to jump in the theater, and that’s the reason I wanted to see this film, but when a pig is the only thing that makes me jump – you know the movie doesn’t work. Why oh why can’t these directors of blockbusters hire screenwriters who know what they’re doing? I had so been looking forward to JW, but was so very disappointed.

    • August Gremaud says:

      Not to in any way discredit what you’re saying, but I find it a little ironic that so many straight horror films get dissed for relying too much on jump scares, and you’re asking for more. To be fair, I WOULD have liked a couple, but a lot of the slow pan shots to the Indominus, the T. Rex, and the Raptors were scary enough, and honestly when a movie doesn’t rely on sudden surprises to scare the audience, I find it more skillfully done. Plus, Jurassic Park had plenty of those. Honestly, I’m just glad your issues with the movie are more mundane, what with all the people expecting a 3rd sequel to meet or outdo one of film’s only truly genre-defining thrillers…

    • Steve says:

      1 – What wasn’t developed? 2 – I went with my family, they jumped a couple times. Perhaps you are just having nerves of steel? 3 – Come on, that’s all movies. Although, I have been watching to much GoT. I kept wondering if they would kill off one of the mains, until I remembered it wasn’t GoT. 4 – Short distances. If you were so disappointed and don’t believe that they knew what they were doing, when will you deliver us your successful film?

    • Anna says:

      Same feelings here. It was nostalgia foremost that worked and drove me to the film, yet the film itself coulnd have been so much better. It could both play on nostalgia, be a tribute to the original Jurassic PARK and be a modern, intelligent film, and entertainment. With some humour perhaps?! CGI and Chris Pratt – no matter how marvelous the visualns and how fun Pratt is – it’s not enough.

  30. Stanley O says:

    It barely got a “fresh” rating on rotten tomatoes. This shows the true disconnect critics in Hollywood have with the mainstream movie-going public.

    • Bill says:

      I think that goes to show how little Rotten Tomatoes can be relied upon; everyone I’ve talked to was thrilled by it except for those who felt compelled to find fault.

      I guarantee this will be a huge seller on disc this Christmas.

  31. It also stayed true to the original winning concept, and in fact went DEEPER into the appeal of that concept- which is these frightening creatures that are supposed to be extinct are now REBORN into the present. The other sequels just had more of the same, but didn’t really go deeper into the whole appeal of the first film, and if you make a sequel, you have to never forget what it was about the original.

    In this case, it has to be scarier and more intense and still about the same basic idea.

  32. George Valentin says:

    Monster movies bring in the big bucks!

    • JoeR says:

      George, tell that to SEVENTH SON. Of course, Universal screwed the pooch by cancelling the 3D release for home video.

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