Weekend Box Office Winners & Losers: The ‘Jurassic World’ Dinosaurs Eat the Record Books

Universal Pictures

Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs O-M-F-G DINOSAURS!” That about sums up this weekend at the box office. But you probably already figured that out, waiting in line for popcorn between 10-year-olds screaming like crazed Taylor Swift fans and the thirtysomething hipster dressed as cinema’s sexiest chaos theoretician: We all saw Jurassic World. As in, all of us around the world. In only the most technical sense, other movies played in theaters and some folks did buy tickets for them.1 But since Jurassic World took in three times the cash as the rest of the top 10 movies at the domestic box office combined, screw those films.2

We’ll get to the full accounting of the ways in which Jurassic World soared like a majestic pterodactyl and ate the competition whole in just a moment. But first, let’s savor these words, because one so rarely gets to write them: Jurassic World is the undisputed box office champion with the biggest global opening of all time: an estimated $511.8 million. That makes it the only film to open to half a billion worldwide. It brought in $30 million more than the previous record holder,3 doubled April’s Furious 7 opening weekend ($250.4 million), and pretty much reversed three weeks of blah movie attendance, putting 2015 back on pace to be, like, the best ever. Go ahead, Spielberg, cue the theme and let loose a victory roar: This weekend, dinosaurs (once again) ruled the earth.

Winner: Franchisesaurus Rex

First, a little history: The original Jurassic Park essentially began our hyperawareness of the box office with its then-record-shattering $50 million opening weekend in 1993. In fact, you could argue that was the first hit of box office crack that began Hollywood’s crippling addiction to bigger and bigger opening weekends, with the excess profits of a long run receding to the back of studio executives’ minds. Granted, at just about $1 billion worldwide in ’93 dollars, Jurassic Park had real Gallimimus-legs. According to Box Office Mojo, it ranks 16th all time when domestic grosses are adjusted for inflation, a list on which few of today’s movies even register.

So how did the Tyrannosaurus get her groove back? First, she landed a superherosize domestic opening of $204.6 million. Speaking of Marvel,4 that’s the second-biggest North American opening weekend of all time, right between the first ($207.4 million) and second ($191.2 million) Avengers films. In fact, the margin between Jurassic World and the original Avengers is so raptor-claw-thin that when Sunday’s estimates are revised Monday, our editors might have to cross out this whole paragraph and replace it with the phrase “biggest domestic opening of all time.” It just depends on how many of us skipped Jurassic World for the NBA Finals and the finale of that little phenomenon called Game of Thrones. [Editor’s note: Good call. Jurassic World is now the biggest domestic opening of all time with $208.8 million. Its international record has been adjusted upward to $524 million.]

That said, you can already break down that number into further superlatives: According to Scott Mendelson at Forbes, Jurassic World scored the biggest “pure” Friday opening (i.e., minus all of those Thursday previews that have become the norm for any blockbuster release) of $64.1 million. And like opening a Russian nesting doll made of pure box office gold, you can keep discovering new records inside of records: the biggest Saturday ever ($69.7 million); best IMAX weekend ever ($20.6 million); and best 3-D weekend ever for RealD ($71 million). Add in the fact that Jurassic Park was the top film in every one of the 66 international markets where it opened — to the tune of $307.2 million, including a massive $100 million in China — and there is not much more to say than “holy shit.”

But if you want to get mystical about it, there are many reasons Jurassic World hit far beyond anyone’s expectations.5 Maybe all of that time Jurassic World spent in development hell helped us forget the bad taste of Jurassic Park III. Perhaps Universal’s marketing machine hit all the right sweet spots between pre–Super Bowl ads, stunts like turning L.A.’s Hollywood & Highland mall into the Jurassic Gates, and, of course, all those tie-ins. Also, given Tomorrowland’s Memorial Day disaster, skipping that weekend proved fortunate for Universal. And doing the full IMAX 3-D thing definitely juiced the grosses (17 of the top 20 theaters were IMAX). But let’s get real. There is only one reason you’ll ever need for why Jurassic World made all the money: dinosaurs.

Winner: A Boy and His Raptor(s)

Of course, Chris Pratt doesn’t hurt either. If we declared the Rock a star two weekends ago, Pratt’s a freaking supernova. Variety crowned him the top reason Jurassic World exploded; quoth Rentrak’s Paul Dergarabedian: “He’s the modern action hero.” At this point, whatever the status of the Indy rumors, Pratt might want to start taking bullwhip lessons.

Winner: The Other Jessica Chastain

Let’s stop overlooking Bryce Dallas Howard. You could argue she’s the real hero of Jurassic World. Atavistic gender roles and laughable high heels aside, having a lead heroine certainly didn’t hurt the movie with those increasingly crucial (and reliable) female moviegoers: Jurassic World drew a relatively balanced 52 percent male/48 percent female audience. In fact, breaking out of the fanboy ghetto (as lucrative a ghetto as it is) means Jurassic World might very well chomp its way toward $500 million at the domestic box office. No one should ever mistake Howard for Jessica Chastain again.

Winner: Letting the Kids Drive the Cadillac

And what about director Colin Trevorrow? Whatever the artistic morality of engineering new Spielbergs, Trevorrow guided a franchise that has been manhandled worse than a Ford Explorer by a T. rex and turned it into a world champion — in fact, even adjusted for inflation, Trevorrow’s film far outpaced Spielberg’s original in its opening weekend. With that kind of success in his first big studio effort, he shouldn’t have too much trouble getting his next passion project off the ground.

Winner: Universal

Finally, Brachiosaurus-size bragging rights go to Universal Pictures, which gave Jurassic World the widest release in its 103-year history: 4,273 theaters. While all soulless media conglomerates can look the same from far enough away, Universal had tended to be the pluckiest of the studios of late, without Disney’s globe-conquering synergy or Warner Bros.’s brute marketing strength. In fact, just last year, Universal was touted as “innovating” with a profitable, blockbuster-less summer. What a difference a year makes: With the 1-2-3 hit combo of Furious 7, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Pitch Perfect 2, Universal had already set the land-speed record for fastest studio to cross $2 billion at the international box office. And Universal has eclipsed both Warner Bros. and Disney for domestic market share with more than $1 billion in tickets. On Monday morning, chairwoman Donna Langley has every right to have “Indominus Studio Chief” engraved on her office door.

Loser: Age of Ultron

Not to rub your robo-nose in it, Ultronbut however impressive $1.35 billion globally may be, it just doesn’t have the same sexy ring as “biggest worldwide opening ever.” Good try, though, kid.

The “It’s a Jurassic World” Weekend Top Five

  1. Jurassic World, Universal, $204.6 million
  2. Spy, Fox, $16 million ($56.9 million domestic total)
  3. San Andreas, Warner Bros., $11 million ($119.3 million domestic total)
  4. Insidious: Chapter 3, Focus, $7.3 million ($37.4 million domestic total)
  5. Pitch Perfect 2, Universal, $6 million ($170.7 million domestic total)

This article was updated to correct an editing error. Jurassic Park made about $1 billion worldwide in 1993.

Filed Under: Box office, Movies, jurassic world, chris pratt, spy, universal, bryce dallas howard

John Lopez is a Grantland contributor and a writer/filmmaker living in Los Angeles.

Archive @ jedgarlopez

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