'Jurassic World': Why did it crush the box office record?

The newest 'Jurassic' movie is the fourth in the series and centers on a dinosaur theme park where a new attraction causes mayhem. It stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/AP
'Jurassic World' stars (from l.) Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Nick Robinson, and Ty Simpkins.

Dinosaurs have stormed the box office.

According to the Associated Press, “Jurassic World,” the fourth and newest film in the series about dinosaurs returning to Earth, had the biggest global box office debut ever and had the second-highest box office opening domestically.

“World” stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard as workers at a dinosaur theme park. The park is a success, but when scientists try to create a new attraction to wow visitors – the Indominus rex – things go awry.

To hear Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at media company Rentrak, tell it, the performance of “Jurassic” has already helped the summer box office enormously. 

“We got the wind back in the summer sails," Dergarabedian told the AP, adding that upcoming movies like Pixar’s “Inside Out” and the new “Mission: Impossible” film could keep the momentum going. "This gets the summer back on track.”

So how did “Jurassic” do it? Reviews probably weren’t a big factor. “Jurassic” did not score high with critics – it currently holds a score of 59 out of 100 on the review aggregator website Metacritic. Monitor film critic Peter Rainer gave the movie a B-, writing that “in terms of its thrills and graphic design, it still looks like a low-to-mid-range Spielberg effort … [the] chemistry [between Pratt and Howard] … is something of a fizzle, and the two boys [who are Howard’s character’s nephews] are never sharply enough defined to make us care if they get gobbled or not ... action is satisfying, if not galvanizing.”

But “Jurassic” appears to have successfully sold itself as an old-fashioned adventure film that’s good for all ages. According to the AP, 39 percent of the audience for the film were under 25, too young to have seen the original in theaters (unless they were brought as infants or toddlers). Even some critics who gave the movie bad reviews, like Variety writer Scott Foundas, wrote that the movie is “fun for a while … [it’s] an undeniably vigorous assault of jaw-chomping jolts and Spielbergian family bonding.” Forbes writer Scott Mendelson noted that the movie is “a general audience mega-blockbuster … Universal got the kids who love dinosaurs, kids of all ages who have discovered the first three films on DVD or VOD over the years, and then adults who grew up with the franchise and consider 'Jurassic Park' to be akin to their 'Star Wars' or 'Batman.'” 

Another of the movie’s strengths? Some critics who gave the movie an otherwise poor review praised the film’s star, Chris Pratt, who already showed he could be a charming action hero in last summer’s hit “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern called the film “lumbering” but wrote that Pratt is “the sole source of buoyancy.”

Meanwhile, those behind “Jurassic” apparently knew a good thing when they saw it – Pratt told Entertainment Weekly he’s on board for a sequel. If this weekend’s box office performance is any indication, one will be coming soon.

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