Batman Forever Ago: A Quarter Century Box Office Report

Earlier this week (on Tuesday), Batman Forever celebrated its 25th anniversary of release. For those who may not recall, this was when Joel Schumacher took over the franchise from Tim Burton and Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. Tommy Lee Jones (coming off an Oscar for The Fugitive) and Jim Carrey (the hottest comedic star in America after the one-two-three punch of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber) costarred as villains Two-Face and The Riddler, respectively. Nicole Kidman was in the mix as Bruce Wayne/Batman’s love interest and Chris O’Donnell was introduced as Robin. Sounds like a recipe for a box office bonanza right? Indeed it was.

In mid June 1995, Forever scored the best opening weekend of all time and was the first feature to make over $50 million in its first three days. The $52.7 million tally topped the previous record holder from two summers before (a little something called Jurassic Park). Forever would hold the title for two years before being toppled by… The Lost World: Jurassic Park. 

The all-time premiere record has since changed 11 times, including in 2008 with another Batflick The Dark Knight at $158 million. The current holder is Avengers: Endgame at $357 million. And that right there shows how much times have changed. In a quarter century, the first frame of Endgame made 7x that of Forever. Higher ticket prices are certainly a factor. Yet in 25 years, Val Kilmer’s grapples with Jim Carrey went from a highest ever start to now 225th. By the way, 224th place belongs to… The Lego Batman Movie! And now, Forever lags behind such forgettable material as The Nun, The Karate Kid remake, Valentine’s Day, and DC’s own hugely disappointing Green Lantern.

Speaking of disappointing, I’m certainly of the opinion that Forever was just that as far as quality. It’s not nearly as bad at what followed with Schumacher’s sequel Batman & Robin. However, it was a big letdown from what Burton accomplished before and what Christopher Nolan achieved a decade later with the start of The Dark Knight trilogy. What remains is an interesting snapshot in time when a $50 million debut was new territory and it took the Bat Signal (even a rather mediocre one) to get there.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Movie Review

The central theme of the Jurassic franchise is whether the scientific re-creation of dinosaurs for profit is enough reason to justify their existence. Of course, the real reason these movies exist is so we can gaze upon glorious CG creatures that took our breath away 25 years ago in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Three years ago, Colin Trevorrow gave us Jurassic World. It did just enough to tap into our nostalgia for the original while keeping another central theme prominent in all series entries – the humans are less interesting than their prehistoric counterparts.

In the inevitable sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, we have a newer problem in that the dinosaurs are becoming increasingly less fascinating. When we left that theme park in 2015, it was in tatters due to the havoc wrought by its main attractions. We’re informed that the dinos still roam the deserted Isla Nublar and there’s a political debate as to what to do with them. That conversation is accelerated as a volcano is about to erupt on the island and incinerate everything. As audience members, let’s just choose to forget that even if the park had become successful and free of T-Rex breakouts, it would’ve only existed for three years because of that volcano. We don’t watch Jurassic pics for logic, after all.

The impending meltdown gets the attention of Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s former operations manager, who’s now an advocate for the dinosaurs survival. Her nephews from Jurassic World aren’t seen or mentioned. Perhaps they were smart enough to want nothing to do with all this. She’s recruited by Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell), the ailing former partner of the late John Hammond, to gather up Isla Nublar’s famous residents. Claire recruits her ex-flame and dino whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt) to join her, along with a ragtag group of assistants and military types led by mercenary and hunter Ted Levine. It turns out Lockwood’s assistant (Rafe Spall, a rather bland villain) might have conjured up other ideas for the creatures true purposes. Oh and Lockwood has a granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Kids in Jurassic flicks are mandatory. She’s got a spotty British accent and an eventual revelation about her character that is downright bonkers.

Our return to Jurassic World does allow for a couple imaginative action sequences that are well choreographed and filmed by franchise newcomer J.A. Bayona (Trevorrow isn’t behind the camera but has co-writing credit). In the second half, the pic moves to a more insulated setting. This section is less satisfying. While Bayona and company get a wee bit of credit for trying something different, the execution falters.

That’s the real issue here. 25 summers ago, the visuals of Jurassic Park were brand new and stunning. The technology, while still state of the art, isn’t fresh anymore. Human characters here aren’t compelling either. The dynamic between Pratt and Howard is as dull as before. Jeff Goldblum turns up as Dr. Malcolm for the first time since 1997’s The Lost World, but his presence is brief and forgettable. What wowed us a quarter century ago is now a listless undertaking occasionally punctuated by genuine excitement. Put another way, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has a tough time justifying its existence.

** (out of four)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (06/15): I am revising my prediction down from $155.4 million to $140.4 million

Arriving three years after its predecessor set a series of box office records, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom looks to flex its dino might next weekend. The fifth picture in the massive franchise that just turned 25 years old, Kingdom is the sequel to Jurassic World and brings back Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Jeff Goldblum (for the first time since 1997’s The Lost World). New cast members include Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, and Ted Levine. J.A. Bayona takes over directorial duties from Colin Trevorrow.

The history of this franchise setting opening weekend milestones is significant. Steven Spielberg’s original in 1993 had the largest debut ever at $47 million a quarter century ago. The Lost World would achieve the same honor four years later with $72 million. And, of course, Jurassic World stunned prognosticators in 2015 with $208 million out of the gate, which stood as the greatest premiere until Star Wars: The Force Awakens topped it six months later.

Fallen Kingdom will not and is not expected to break records. Jurassic World seemed to have its stars aligned for a spectacular opening. It had been nearly a decade and a half since the previous installment and the nostalgia factor was off the charts. Mostly positive reviews didn’t hurt and Mr. Pratt was coming off a star making role in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Critical reaction is mixed. The sequel currently sits at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes (World got to 71%). The film is already out in a number of foreign markets and it earned $151 million worldwide over the weekend (a bit above expectations).

The stateside tracking for Kingdom is between $130-$150 million. My general feeling is that this franchise has continually exceeded expectations and may do so here, albeit not by much. Jurassic World was a phenomenon while this is looked at as another summer sequel. It just happens to be one with a huge fan base who love returning to see these CG creatures.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opening weekend prediction: $140.4 million

Jurassic Park Turns 25: A Look Back

A quarter century ago on this day, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was unleashed in theaters and it was indeed a game changer. For those not old enough to remember its release, it’s a bit difficult to describe just how groundbreaking its visuals were at that time in the early 1990s. The idea that realistic dinosaurs could roam the silver screen didn’t seem possible. However, Spielberg’s wizardry and the geniuses at Industrial Light & Magic proved us all wrong.

The scene above had audiences expressing the same reaction as Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Mouths open. Jaws dropped. As we have learned in the 25 years since, amazing visuals aren’t enough to make a film great. That said, if any picture could claim greatness due to its effects, this is the one.

Yet Jurassic Park was special for more reasons than just that. Based on Michael Crichton’s bestseller, the cinematic adaptation tapped into a childhood fascination with Earth’s first dwellers that struck a chord. The concept seems so simple now: mix Steven Spielberg with dinosaurs and what could possibly go wrong? That recipe worked rather flawlessly, but let’s take some stock here.

Just a year and a half earlier, Mr. Spielberg made Hook. And when you think of that concept – America’s most commercially successful director taking on the Peter Pan story? What could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty did. Hook has its vocal defenders, but I fall into the camp of deeming it a major disappointment (particularly on subsequent viewings).

Jurassic arrived at a time where it was feasible to question Spielberg’s magic touch. Those queries went away with the first look at the dino creations and the suspenseful and masterfully directed picture that followed.

In terms of box office numbers, some may not know this franchise opener’s relationship to Batman, but there is one. Jurassic Park opened with $47 million dollars. At the time, that stood at the largest domestic debut in history by beating out the $45 million made the summer before by Batman Returns. 

In 1995, it would be Batman Forever that would top the Jurassic record with $52 million.

Two summers after that, Jurassic follow-up The Lost World would snatch the record back with $72 million.

The original Jurassic now stands as the 247th largest opening and was surpassed by all three sequels that followed (and will certainly also be topped by next Friday’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).

The original’s total domestic gross ended up being $357 million. A 2013 3-D re-release for its 20th anniversary added another $45 million to bring the overall haul to $402 million. And that is second only to Jurassic World from 2015 ($652 million).

The Lost World topped out at $229 million with Jurassic Park III at $181 million. When we adjust for inflation, Park tops World by a margin of $839 million to $724 million.

Looking back at 1993, it’s safe to say no director had a single better year in film history than Spielberg before or since. Not only did Jurassic Park set a new standard for visual effects and break every box office record, but he released another picture at the end of the year. That would be Schindler’s List. The Holocaust drama was nominated for twelve Oscars and won seven, including Best Picture and Spielberg’s first statue for directing (he’d win again five years later for Saving Private Ryan).

So as we await the fifth installment of this franchise, it felt worthy to take a moment and acknowledge the seismic happening that occurred 25 years ago today. The unleashing of the dinosaurs. The advent of visual effects in a way we’d never experienced. A year unparalleled for a filmmaker. Welcome to Jurassic Park… 25 years later.

Oscar Watch – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

A quarter century after Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park thrilled audiences with its eye-popping visuals, the fifth entry in the franchise arrives domestically two weeks from Friday. However, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out tomorrow in the United Kingdom, so critical reaction is present. The verdict? Mixed. Kingdom currently sits at 65% on Rotten Tomatoes (predecessor Jurassic World ended up with 71%).

No Oscar prognosticator looked at this as Best Picture material. This series is all about the potential for technical recognition. The 1993 original was nominated for and won three gold statues: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. For those around at the time, Park was an undeniable marvel with said visuals and the sounds of the dinosaurs wreaking havoc. The 1997 sequel managed one nod for Visual Effects and lost to a little something called Titanic.

2001’s Jurassic Park III, no surprise, was ignored by the Academy. On the other hand, it may surprise you to learn that 2015’s World also came up empty with voters. The pic did set box office records at the time, but couldn’t even manage Visual Effects or Sound recognition.

The answer as to why could be simple. In this particular franchise, there’s really little room for improvement when it comes to its technical capabilities. Jurassic Park set a high bar in Isla Nublar  for the CG dinos and their sounds. The Academy has moved onto other impressive tech work for other pictures.

Bottom line: If Jurassic World couldn’t manage down the line nods, don’t expect any for Kingdom.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 1997: The Top 10 Hits and More

Put on your nostalgia goggles (or maybe the sunglasses that make you forget stuff if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones flash a light at you) because I’m recounting the summer of 1997 on the blog today!

This has become a seasonal tradition around here and I gave you the top 10 summer hits of 1987 and more earlier this week. If you missed that post, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This time around, we’re going back 20 years when Nicolas Cage accounted for 25% of the top 8 moneymakers and Batman crashed and burned.

We’ll begin with the top ten and then get to some other notable pics and flops:

10. Hercules

Domestic Gross: $99 million

Disney’s ‘toon couldn’t reach the century mark and that was considered a disappointment after early and mid 90s smashes like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. 

9. Contact

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Robert Zemeckis’s follow-up to Forrest Gump (which ruled summer 1994) was a well-regarded science fiction drama with Jodie Foster and an emerging Matthew McConaughey.

8. Con Air

Domestic Gross: $101 million

This action thriller from the Bruckheimer factory is our first to feature Mr. Nicolas Cage (who was coming off a recent Oscar win), along with an all-star cast including John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames.

7. George of the Jungle

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Disney probably didn’t anticipate this remake of the  cartoon starring Brendan Fraser would manage to out perform Hercules, but that it did.

6. Batman and Robin

Domestic Gross: $107 million

This may have placed sixth for the summer, but Batman and Robin came in well below its three predecessors and director Joel Schumacher and new Caped Crusader George Clooney have been apologizing about it for the last 20 years. We’re still trying to block out those Arnold/Mr. Freeze bad puns.

5. Face/Off

Domestic Gross: $112 million

Mr. Cage teamed up for Mr. John Travolta for John Woo’s entertainingly over-the-top sci-fi and action mash-up.

4. My Best Friend’s Wedding

Domestic Gross: $127 million

Julia Roberts made a return to box office dominance in this rom com which featured stolen scenes from costar Rupert Everett.

3. Air Force One

Domestic Gross: $172 million

“Get off my plane!” became one of the season’s catchphrases with Harrison Ford as the butt kicking POTUS battling Russian terrorist Gary Oldman in the skies.

2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Domestic Gross: $229 million

Steven Spielberg’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to 1993’s Jurassic Park kicked off with the biggest opening weekend of all time (at that time). However, in the end, it couldn’t manage to top the gross of its predecessor. If you’d polled probably any box office analyst at the beginning of the year, they likely would have said it’d be #1 for the summer. Yet that honor ended up belonging to…

1. Men in Black

Domestic Gross: $250 million

A franchise was born and Will Smith made it two summers in a row with the top grossing picture (the previous year being Independence Day) with Barry Sonnenfeld’s megahit sci-fi action comedy.

And now for some other notable pics:

The Fifth Element

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Audiences and critics didn’t quite know what to make of Luc Besson’s visual feast featuring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker. Sound familiar? Same thing is happening 20 years later with Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. 

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The Mike Myers 007 spoof performed well, but it wasn’t until home video that Powers turned into a genuine phenomenon spawning countless catchphrases. Its sequel two summers later would earn more in its opening weekend that part 1 did in its domestic total.

The Full Monty

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This British import about unconventional male strippers was the summer’s true sleeper and went on to earn a host of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Monty would earn over $250 million worldwide compared to its tiny $3.5 million budget.

Cop Land

Domestic Gross: $44 million

After appearing in a string of high-octane action flicks, Sylvester Stallone changed it up with this crime drama featuring an impressive supporting cast that included Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Harvey Keitel.

And now for some of the season’s large belly flops:

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Domestic Gross: $48 million

Keanu Reeves didn’t want to touch it, but Sandra Bullock came back for this ridiculed sequel where Jason Patric was the new lead. Considered by many to be one of the worst follow-ups of all time.

Out to Sea

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau created comedic gold with The Fortune Cookie and The Odd Couple and reunited years later to box office fortune with the Grumpy Old Men movies. This one? Not so much.

Father’s Day

Domestic Gross: $28 million

Ivan Reitman directing Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in a high-profile comedy? Sounds like a good recipe, but the product was mediocre at best and audiences didn’t turn out.

Excess Baggage

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Two summers earlier, Alicia Silverstone had broken out with Clueless. The summer of 1997 was a breakdown. In addition to appearing as Batgirl in the already discussed Batman and Robin, this action comedy with Benicio del Toro bombed big time.

Steel

Domestic Gross: $1.7 million

People may have wanted to watch Shaquille O’Neal on the basketball court, but they had zero interest in watching him as the title superhero in this disaster.

And that does it for now, folks, but I’ll be back soon recounting 2007!

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (25-21)

Hey all – a couple of years back, I wrote a series counting down the top 25 highest grossing actors at the domestic box office of all time. At that time in August 2014, there were four women among the 25. Now there’s just two.

This led me to think – who are the top 25 actresses in box office history? Well, wonder no more, friends! This five-part series will count down the women who have made the greatest impact financially at the multiplex. As with my previous list, I’ll list their career earnings, franchises they’ve been part of (which helps one to make this list, as you’ll see), their highest and lowest grossing pictures, and the number of $100M plus entries they have appeared in. I’ll also tell you where they rank on the overall list of biggest grossing performers when you factor the fellas in.

Before we dive into the actual list, here’s some women I figured might have been here, but didn’t make the cut. Despite that whole Titanic being one of the hugest blockbusters ever and multiple Oscar nominations thing, no Kate Winslet. No Drew Barrymore or Nicole Kidman or Charlize Theron. Same goes for Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Melissa McCarthy. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise wasn’t enough to vault Keira Knightley on here.

Enough of who didn’t make the list. Who did? Let’s get to it with numbers 25-21, shall we?

25. Kristen Stewart

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: Twilight

Highest Grossing Picture: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) – $300 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 6 (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Twilight, Snow White and the Huntsman)

Lowest Grosser: Camp X-Ray (2014) – $13,000

Overall Rank: 116

24. Gwyneth Paltrow

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Highest Grossing Picture: The Avengers (2012) – $623 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 6 (Iron Man 3, The Avengers, Iron Man 2, Iron Man, Shakespeare in Love, Seven)

Lowest Grosser: The Good Night (2007) – $22,000

Overall Rank: 111

23. Halle Berry

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: X-Men

Highest Grossing Picture: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – $234 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 7 (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X2: X-Men United, Die Another Day, X-Men, The Flintstones, Robots)

Lowest Grosser: Frankie & Alice (2011) – $706,000

Overall Rank: 106

22. Queen Latifah

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: Ice Age

Highest Grossing Picture: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) – $196 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 7 (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Chicago, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Bringing Down the House, Hairspray, Valentine’s Day)

Lowest Grosser: The Perfect Holiday (2007) – $5.8 million

Overall Rank: 104

21. Julianne Moore

Career Earnings: $1.9 billion

Franchises: The Hunger Games

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – $337 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 5 (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Hannibal, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Fugitive)

Lowest Grosser: World Traveler (2002) – $103,000

Overall Rank: 97

And that’ll do it for today! I’ll be bringing you numbers 20-16 tomorrow…

The Lost World: Jurassic Park – A Look Back

On this Throwback Thursday and on the evening of the debut of the franchise reboot Jurassic World, it would be obvious to pontificate about the original Jurassic Park. It opened 22 years ago today and is widely and deservedly considered a modern day classic. I, however, chose to go in a different direction and talk about The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which stood as one of the most breathlessly awaited sequels ever in the summer of 1997. While the dino sequel certainly has its share of moments, impressive visuals and well constructed action sequences – the thrill, as the late B.B. King put it, is gone – mostly.

The Lost World picks up four years after the events of the original and stars Sam Neill and Laura Dern are nowhere to be found (they would come out of extinction for the third installment). Instead Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the wise cracking comic relief from part one is the headliner. He’s still understandably shaken up from the events that transpired on Isla Nublar and things don’t improve when John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) informs him that there was always a second island where the replicated dinosaurs are developed. To add insult to injury, Ian’s girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore), a paleontologist, is already on the island documenting them. It’s all part of Hammond’s way of protecting his money grubbing family from turning the island into a theme park, which he knows darn well didn’t work out so hot four years ago.

This all leads to Malcolm going after Sarah, along with his young daughter and an eco activist videographer (Vince Vaughn, fresh off Swingers). As you might expect, it’s not a simple mission and the new island finds plenty of angry dinosaurs while Malcolm and company also must contend with a separate team led by Hammond’s greedy nephew and a hunter (Pete Postlethwaite) whose mission is to bag a T. rex.

With Steven Spielberg returning behind the camera, it’s no surprise that there are cleverly directed action sequences. The most thrilling involves a trailer and slowly breaking glass. Problem is, while the first Jurassic was so influential, World often feels like leftovers. For moviegoers too young to remember the release of Park in 1993, there’s really no way to properly explain just how awe struck it left audiences. We had never seen visuals like it and hearing that T. Rex growling loudly in our eardrums was exhilarating. When that film’s characters gasped at the creatures the first time they saw them, so did we. The Lost World has its fun moments, but the fresh factor is eliminated. Taking Ian Malcolm from an effective supporting player to hero doesn’t always work and his wise cracks might be more plentiful but they’re twice as corny. The other human characters contribute little. Don’t get me wrong – the dinosaurs look friggin sweet and there’s more of them but a better viewing experience it does not make.

By the time we arrive at the climax set in San Diego, the sight of T. Rex terrorizing the city seems like little more than Spielberg’s chance to make a short Godzilla tribute. We see a relic of the past terrorize the city, including a Blockbuster Video, another relic from the past. As Jurassic World is about to premiere, it will be the 1993 version we have in our hearts and minds for comparisons sake. The quality of this sequel is justified as a mixed bag, which explains it having been mostly lost in the world of conversation this week.