(from left) Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) and Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.
On this weekend in 2020, the top film at the domestic box office, among those being recorded, was Quiver Distribution’s Becky. The Lulu Wilson/Kevin James/Joel McCale actioner, a Die Hard knock-off in the guise of a home invasion thriller, would earn $200,000 in its second weekend of release. The VOD/theatrical release would earn $1 million this summer, joining Relic, The Rental and The Wretched among the small fish excelling in a mostly drained pond. Just over one year later, I was writing a post detailing why it was okay that Universal’s F9 “only” opened with $30 million on its first Friday for an eventual $70 million weekend. And now, in June of 2022, Becky is getting a sequel and I’m going to write a post explaining why, yes, it’s a huge win that Universal’s Jurassic World Dominion opened with $59.5 million on its first Friday.
The opening day gross is essentially tied with the $58.5 million opening day of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in June of 2018. The J.A. Bayona-directed sequel would open with $148 million domestic on its way to a $417 million domestic and $1.31 billion global gross. The franchise has averaged $1 billion per installment over five previous films, and it’s the most profitable mega-budget franchise (in terms of rate of return in theatrical grosses versus production budget) in recent Hollywood history. The critics may carp, and the online pundits may protest, but audiences show up and mostly walk away happy. Fallen Kingdom, which according to the Internet everyone hated, earned $5 million more domestically than Wonder Woman and $36 million less globally than Black Panther despite far less free publicity and online proselytizing. General audiences enjoy these films without making them a core part of their personal identities.
Every Jurassic installment provides all the core elements (ordinary non-superpowered scientists and adventurers dealing with extraordinary circumstances involving dinosaurs, dino carnage, IMAX-friendly, spectacle, etc.) that make it unlike any other major franchise in Hollywood. Jurassic especially stands out after a decade of Hollywood chasing The Dark Knight and The Avengers. Like Transformers and the 007 franchise, even badly reviewed installments will draw interested moviegoers if those lousy reviews indicate that you’ll get the tropes and variables that can only be found in those respective franchises. Spectre is one of the very worst 007 movies, but it still contains all the fixings of a James Bond movie. Even “bad” Jurassic or Transformers sequel contains elements you won’t find in an MCU or Pixar flick. The returning cast members (Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum) were bait for audiences old enough to not automatically go “Wohoo, dinosaurs!’
If Jurassic World: Dominion, which was the first major Hollywood blockbuster to go back into production amid the Covid pandemic (and whose size, scope and variety feel like a miracle under those circumstances), plays like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this weekend, we can expect a Fri-Sun gross of $152 million. That would be behind only Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($187 million) and Spider-Man: No Way Home ($260 million) amid Covid-era Fri-Sun debuts. Still, Dominion earned $18 million in Thursday previews versus Fallen Kingdom’s $15.3 million preview gross, meaning that Jurassic World 3 earned $41.5 million on its pure Friday versus Jurassic World 2’s $43.5 million pure Friday gross. If the reviews cause frontloading, and yes, the movie ends on a whimper and folks may be annoyed at the focus on scary locusts versus giant dinosaurs, the opening might be closer to, horrors, $140 million.
Moreover, Universal had little reason to presume Top Gun: Maverick would still be earning $50 million in its third weekend, so that’s some cash that probably otherwise would have drifted into their coffers. That said, if word of mouth holds up, Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun 2 and Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World 3 can both run the tables in terms of live-action biggies alongside Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8), Jordan Peele’s Nope (July 22) and David Leitch’s Bullet Train (August 5) over the rest of the summer. Could the film play frontloaded even amid less competition? Sure, but even a multiplier like Fallen Kingdom gets the $185 million threequel to over/under $400 million. Even legs like F9 ($173 million/$70 million) gets it past $350 million. That would be down 16% from Fallen Kingdom, less than Jurassic Park III ($181 million) dropped from Lost World ($229 million).
Jurassic World: Dominion, starring the original trio alongside Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, B.D. Wong, Campbell Scott, Isabella Sermon and DeWanda Wise, may not be the top domestic grosser of the summer. It may end up below The Batman’s $369 million cume. Nontheless, the global crown is up for grabs, especially with an extra $130 million or so in China (after around $36 million in two days for a likely $52 million weekend) that its top-tier competition won’t have. Even if it ends below $1 billion, it’s a $185 million flick that has earned $195 million global and could be over/under $385 million worldwide by tomorrow. If this film sours folks on the franchise, it is supposed to be the finale. For all the “It’s the Rise of Skywalker of Jurassic movies!” chatter and that’s not totally inaccurate, Star Wars Episode IX still earned $1.073 billion worldwide.