‘Jurassic’ poised for B.O. record

Universal’s “Jurassic Park” is poised to crash through the $ 100 million box office barrier Saturday and set a new speed record in the process. Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur adventure will have reached that milestone in nine days, one day quicker than former record-holder, 1989’s”Batman,” and two days ahead of last year’s “Batman Returns.”

With slight increases in average ticket prices, getting there has taken approximately 21.7 million patrons. Back in 1989, 25.2 million tickets were required to reach the benchmark.

“Jurassic’s” record is unique because unlike the “Batmans” or “Terminator 2,” the new film has entered the marketplace without an earlier event film to stimulate summer movie business. The first “Batman” was preceded by “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” while “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” was already in play prior to “T2’s” arrival.

“What’s going on now is great for the industry,” said “Robin Hood” co-producer/co-writer Pen Densham. “Moviegoing is a kind of habit. If you have a good time, it reinforces that habit and you know that when as many people are going to see one movie, it means the experience is pleasurable.”

However, it’s unclear whether these potent audience magnets expand the marketplace or, like a black hole, suck the energy from everything else in their path.

“It’s a difficult issue to gauge because the one thing you can’t calculate is the number of repeat customers,” Landmark Theatres’ Bert Manzari observed. “What I definitely believe is that a picture like this increases the frequency your regular audience goes out to the movies.”

Fox exec VP Tom Sherak takes it one step further. Without other strong pictures in the marketplace, he said, it would be a one-film summer. “But there is a lot of heat and anticipation for pictures like ‘The Firm,’ ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and ‘In the Line of Fire,’ and that’s just the first part of the summer.”