Twenty years after its original release, Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking "Jurassic Park" returns to movie theaters Friday -- in 3D.
Big, loud and scary, "Jurassic Park" was a box-office hit and a cultural phenomenon when it came out in June 1993; it made dinosaurs cooler than they'd ever been, for school kids and sci-fi fans. The computer-generated imagery used to create the velociraptors and a terrifying T-Rex awed moviegoers and changed -- for better and worse -- the way Hollywood made movies. And it was among the first truly global blockbusters, making the majority of its money overseas.
Universal won't change the way Hollywood does business with its Friday re-release, but the studio should turn a tidy profit -- and heighten anticipation for the 3D Blu-ray, due on April 26, and "Jurassic Park. 4," which arrives next summer.
"Jurassic Park" will be on roughly 2,600 screens – about 300 of which will be Imax -- enough so that it will be a factor in this weekend's box office chase. Analysts are projecting a three-day total in the mid-teen millions and and then it will eventually take in around $40 million domestically.
That would work for Universal, which between the Stereo D conversion and marketing has probably spent about $30 million, and plans an international rollout as well.
Early internet buzz on the conversion -- by the same outfit that did the 3D on "Titanic" -- has been been generally positive, though few seem wowed. The consensus seems to be that the dinos seem bigger and badder (at least for a while), there is a dearth of gratuitous in-your-face 3D shots and the film's taut tone and subtleties remain intact. In short, the 3D "Jurassic Park" isn't all that much different than the original -- and that may be fine.
"It will be nostalgia more than 3D that draws people to this movie," Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap. "It has been available on DVD for years, but it's the chance to relive the experience of being in the theaters, and the opportunity to share it with another generation -- their kids -- that will drive moviegoers to this one."
How many people are willing to pay for a 3D ticket to that blast of nostalgia remains to be seen.
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy Gerald R. Mollen and directed by a 47-year-old Spielberg, "Jurassic Park" was based on the novel by Michael Chrichton and adapted by David Koepp. It starred Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Martin Ferrero and Samuel L. Jackson, several of whom have been hitting the talk show circuit to hype the re-release.
The story is set on an island in the Pacific, where a billionaire philanthropist and a small team of genetic scientists have created an amusement park of cloned dinosaurs. (Universal, of course, has cloned a couple of dinos themselves and created popular "Jurassic Park" rides for its theme parks.)
In terms of its theater count, Universal's rollout of "Jurassic Park" is in line with the recent re-releases of of a couple of other blockbusters.
Last February, "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" was given a 3D re-release in 2,655 theaters. It opened with $22 million and went on to take in $43.4 million domestically. A couple of weeks later, on this weekend last year, the 3D version of James Cameron's "Titanic" was able to bring in $17.3 million from 2,674 theaters before grossing $58 million total in North America. The 3D "Titanic' was a huge hit in China, however, where it took in a record-breaking $58 million in its first week.
"Jurassic Park" was a bona fide blockbuster. It brought in more than $900 million worldwide and surpassed another Spielberg film, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," to become the highest-grossing film up to that time. Two sequels followed, "The Lost World" in 1997 and "Jurassic Park 3" in 2001. In all, the franchise has taken in more than $1.9 billion at the worldwide box office.