Universal trotted out “Jurassic Park” over the weekend and the pic enacted its updated version of “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Box Office.” The potent movie carnivore gobbled up some $ 47 million, an industry weekend record; with Thursday previews, its total climbed to $ 50 million.
With such power behind the Spielberg movie fun park, it was no surprise that others steered clear of a head-to-head close encounter.
“This is a breakthrough picture for critics and audiences,” said Universal Pictures chairman Tom Pollock. “It’s like ‘Star Wars’ in the sense that it expands what you can create on the screen credibly. This is the kind of result that makes coming in at 6 a.m. every day worth it.”
He was also gratified that parents were getting the message that the film was not for tykes. The company calculated that only 2% of its audience was under the age of 8, while under-12s comprised 19%. He added that just 2% of parents of the latter age bracket rated the film “too scary” for their kids.
Pollock and other U officials said both the list of records set by the film and the exit polling were “beyond belief.”
“We’ve simply never had an opening like this — no one has,” said Universal senior VP of distribution/marketing liaison Nikki Rocco. “The figures from individual locations are unprecedented. At the (Universal City) Cineplex 18 we did $ 75,000 alone. And the audience response is unbelievable. We’re way beyond ecstatic.”
Data collected by MovieFone indicated that an average of 67% of available evening seats were purchased in advance by phone in greater Los Angeles and Manhattan. The average was relatively consistent on a day-by-day basis. NYC’s 1, 140-seat Ziegfeld was among a handful of locations that was completely sold out based upon advance ticketing.
For the studio whose lineage dates back to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Phantom of the Opera” and was built on “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” not to mention “Jaws,””Jurassic” is an apt monster hit. Its weekend projection of $ 47 million from 2,404 playdates translates into mighty hefty averages of $ 19,550.
Screen averages for the first and second “Batman” openings were $ 18,459 and $ 17,284, respectively. One has to go back to early editions of the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” films (with fewer playdates) to find blockbuster averages of more than $ 20,000.
For the record book, U’s estimates exceed the box office heights established by Warner Bros.’ “Batman Returns” last year. “Jurassic Park” should have the best opening-day gross (including Thursday previews) with $ 18.5 million and the top single-day gross of $ 18 million on Saturday.
With overall business for key films estimated between $ 83 million and $ 85 million, the weekend also is expected to easily top comparable grosses for this time of year set back in 1989.
“An event movie like this is just great for business,” enthused Fox senior VP Tom Sherak. “In one sense things never change — with good pictures in the marketplace, the audience will always expand. It truly looks like it’s going to be the best summer ever.”
Columbia distribution chief Jeff Blake echoed Sherak’s comments, adding that next week, with the release of his studio’s “Last Action Hero,” there’s a strong likelihood of a $ 100 million weekend dominated by the two blockbusters.
Nonetheless, based on current viewing trends, many films will continue to hold their ground.
“Jurassic” accounted for roughly 60% of all ticket revenues and pushed business upward 57% from the week before. The sesh was also ahead by some 46% from the comparable weekend of 1992.
Though the film was given a wide berth, two new limited releases opened to comparably upbeat business. Touchstone’s Tina Turner biopic “What Love Got to Do With It,” on just 58 screens, opened to an estimated $ 1.2 million to rank 12th for the weekend. With averages of $ 20,690, it should rock the summer as it expands beyond its initial 12 markets.
On just two Manhattan screens, Sony Picture Classics’ “Orlando” couldn’t have written a better scenario than its projected $ 85,000 gross. The critically heralded period gender-bending yarn also looks to set records when the dust settles from the weekend.
TriStar’s “Cliffhanger” was still moving up the face of the box office with $ 7.6 million to rank second for the weekend. The thrill-a-minute yarn avoided being trampled by the dinosaurs with averages of $ 3,120 and 37% slippage. Still in 2,431 locales, its cume has risen to $ 49.6 million.
Warner Bros.’ comedic “Made in America” also kept its core appeal to finish third with $ 5 million. The Whoopi Goldberg-Ted Danson vehicle drove to $ 2,440 averages from 2,048 venues. Off 33% for the weekend, it has amassed $ 29.3 million.
Hollywood Pictures’ “Guilty as Sin” held surprisingly well with $ 4 million and fourth ranking. Down 30%, the psychological thriller was averaging $ 3,080 from 1,300 asylums. After 10 days of release, it has $ 11.7 million in the bank.
Warner Bros. was also polling strong on fifth-place “Dave” with a projected $ 3.2 million. The Beltway comedy, in 1,805 precincts, was averaging $ 1,770. It lost 32% to the opposition, and now stands at $ 52.8 million to date.
New Line’s “Menace II Society,” in at sixth with $ 2.5 million, had its best ranking yet. The searing urban drama faced the competition and backed down just 24% in 540 confrontations. Still buoyant with $ 4,630 averages, it has a cume of $ 12.8 million.
BV’s “Life With Mikey” was not so sweet, holding on to seventh place but dropping 36%. The 1,719 engagements for the Michael J. Fox starrer had lightweight averages of $ 1,340 for a $ 7.1 million total.
It was no laughing matter for Fox’s eighth-ranked “Hot Shots! Part Deux,” which fell 50% for an estimated $ 2.2 million. The antic sequel clung to 1,779 outposts with averages of $ 1,240. To date it’s earned $ 30.9 million.
A shard away in ninth with $ 2 million was Paramount’s “Sliver.” The erotic thriller wilted 43% in 1,803 chambers for $ 1,110 averages. It’s put to rest $ 32.1 million so far.
The sole “super” aspect of Buena Vista’s 10th-place “Super Mario Bros.” was its precipitous 62% drop for a weekend gross of $ 1.6 million. Down to $ 850 averages at 1,872 arcades, it has box office revenues of $ 16.7 million.