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''Jurassic Park'' breaks records

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Jurassic Park is bigger than its stats. It’s bigger than its record-breaking opening weekend ($47 million). It’s bigger than its record pace in reaching $100 million (9 days) and $200 million (23 days, 14 days faster than Batman, the previous record holder). And it’s bigger than its potential to reach $330 million (the industry’s current best guess), which alone would make it the second most successful film of all time, ahead of Star Wars ($322 million, including rereleases) and behind E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial ($399 million, from its two releases). Jurassic is bigger even than its gargantuan impact on its now very happy studio, MCA/Universal, which needed a hit to impress its Japanese owner, Matsushita, and on Steven Spielberg, already the richest director on earth. Spielberg started collecting his salary on Jurassic‘s opening day and will continue to get paid as long as the movie is seen by money-toting Homo sapiens.

In short, there’s no end to Hollywood’s fascination with Jurassic‘s numbers, which were large from the get go (it cost a hefty $60 million or so to make) but would have been larger if Spielberg had taken a salary or if the cast included marquee names. The bottom line: MCA/Universal could gross some $2 billion worldwide, including video revenue and its cut of retail merchandise. Estimates are that Spielberg’s slice could come to more than $100 million. ”He bet on himself and won,” says Lawrence Kasanoff, producer of James Cameron’s next movie, True Lies. ”He produced a blockbuster.”

Maybe the biggest ever. Because of increased video and overseas markets, Jurassic could surpass E.T. without matching its North American box office receipts. ”Eleven years ago,” Variety‘s A.D. Murphy points out, ”E.T. sold more tickets (than Jurassic will), but world theatrical revenues were probably 75 percent of all revenues. Now they are only 25 percent.”

”I’m not sure I want it to pass E.T.,” confesses Kathleen Kennedy, who produced both films. ”E.T. is a special little movie to me.”

Another figure that captivates the industry is 12 percent — the gain in total ticket sales for the first five weeks of summer ’93 over summer ’92. For its first two weeks, Jurassic so dominated the box office, that it ”sucked up all the momentum in the marketplace,” says one Universal executive. But now that Sleepless in Seattle, The Firm, and In the Line of Fire have opened strongly, executives at rival studios have stopped fearing the 8,000-pound dinosaur and now see Jurassic helping all movies by bringing people back to theaters. ”It jump-started the whole summer,” says Warner Bros. distribution president Barry Reardon. ”Jurassic is making the market grow,” says Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen.

How’d Spielberg do it? Was it his genius? Marketing pomp? Mere circumstance? Such questions are feeding a welter of ideas about how to duplicate — or exceed — Jurassic‘s success. ”There won’t be a raft of dinosaur pictures,” insists MCA Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Pollock. But producer David Madden (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) sees ”a real boon” for computer-generated imagery and the return of the sci-fi adventure movie. And TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy is enthusiastic about such in-the-works F/X projects as Godzilla and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. Spielberg’s collaborators, Kathleen Kennedy and her husband, Frank Marshall, are themselves prepping Michael Crichton’s Congo, which will feature a King Kong-like figure.

While Jurassic is scaling new heights, another question being asked in Hollywood is, How high could the right movie go? ”What if Jurassic had the childish wonder of E.T.,” wonders box office analyst Michael Mahern, ”or the mythopoetic elements of Star Wars, or the sheer dramatic craft of Jaws? What if it weren’t just a roller-coaster ride? Old ladies went to see E.T. They’re not going to Jurassic Park.”

So how big is Jurassic Park? Try this on for size: It’s the future. It has changed moviemaking in Hollywood forever — or at least until the next Jurassic comes along.

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