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‘Jurassic’ redux

Johnston to direct third U pic

Universal and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment have set “Jumanji” director Joe Johnston to direct “Jurassic Park 3,” a third installment of the studio’s prized film franchise.

A story has been hatched by Spielberg, and a script is being written by Craig Rosenberg, who’s writing in close collaboration with Johnston. The studio is fast-tracking the film in hopes of an early 2000 production start. Plot details are being kept secret, though a larger concentration of the ferocious dinos is apparently in the cards.

In the new talent configuration, Michael Crichton, who penned the novels on which “Jurassic Park” and its sequel “Lost World” were based, will likely get a producing credit but will have a passive involvement.

When Spielberg last year unveiled a desire to continue the dino-franchise, he expected to be at the helm for the third time. But he will be pre-occupied, directing Tom Cruise and possibly Matt Damon in the Fox-DreamWorks co-production “Minority Report.” That film’s script by Jon Cohen has a nearly completed rewrite from Scott Frank (“Out of Sight”), and Spielberg is expected to begin production Oct. 11.

Johnston is coming off the critically acclaimed, but modest grosser, “October Sky.” With “Jurassic Park 3,” he is back in what many consider his forte — big, special-effects driven pics such as “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “The Pagemaster” and “The Rocketeer.”

Rosenberg is a newcomer to the dinosaur genre. His credits include writing and directing “Hotel de Love” and his scripting credits include “Eliot Loves Gabriella” and “She.” But Rosenberg greatly impressed Johnston and Spielberg.

The dinosaur franchise has been Universal’s biggest asset, earning more than $1.5 billion in combined worldwide box office revenue and translating into strong theme park, merchandising, TV, music, video and publishing outlets. The original grossed a whopping $913 million globally. And the sequel, “Lost World,” opened to a weekend gross of $90.4 million, making it the biggest Memorial Day debut in history to that date. The sequel grossed more than $600 million worldwide.