2015 has been an enormous year for Hollywood at the box office. Three of the top ten highest grossing movies of all time have come in just the last few months. Atop the pile of 2015 sits Jurassic World, having hauled in a grand total of $1.5 worldwide, good for fourth on the all-time list. Below that, fellow franchise giants Furious 7 (5th) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (6th) round out what’s becoming the best year at the box office the industry has ever seen. So how did we get here? To answer that, we need only look as far as Jurassic World.
Here we have the quintessential example of the consummate summer blockbusters in the modern era of cinema. Jurassic World carries with it a perfect storm of box office magic: A charismatic and popular lead actor, backed by a universally loved franchise featuring dinosaurs. Release that right in the thick of the sequel-mania we exist in today, and the real surprise would be if it didn’t end up making absurd amounts of money. As it is, the movie broke the record for opening weekends, and is continuing to climb the ladder of all-time gross, sitting a mere $300,000 away from the first Avengers.
More than anything though, it’s a classic example of how relying on a franchise alone to carry the weight is folly. Look at Terminator: Genisys as a case study. We have very similar elements, with a recognizable lead in a franchise almost exactly as old as Jurassic Park. But what made one a flop and the other a smash hit came in one elegant solution: One is actually a good movie. Too often studios think they can skate by on franchise hype, forgetting to actually put out a decent story that audiences can enjoy.
Keep in mind, we’re still barely halfway through the year and already three movies are in the top ten for all time box office. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens due out in December, we could very well have a fourth movie occupy the list. All this equates to a continued proliferation for sequels and reboots, something evidenced by Universal green-lighting yet another sequel due out in 2018. Is there any potential for continued story past the fourth instance of a dinosaur theme park directly leading to numerous deaths? Probably not, but following a box office haul well over a billion dollars, all Universal sees is green.
Moving forward though, that could very well sink any continued films for the same reason Genisys flopped. When you stretch the story too thin and lean into the franchise, you quickly the attention of your audience. What was before a perfect recipe for a summer blockbuster instead turns into an embarrassingly overt cash grab that falls flat on its face. Sadly, we can always count on Hollywood to never quit while they’re ahead. From Terminator to The Golden Compass, overplaying its hand is a tradition as old as the industry itself.
Whatever the future of the series holds, there’s no denying that Jurassic World leveraged its story and fandom to absolute perfection, evidenced by the heaping pile of cash it’s continuing to rake in every weekend. For any future efforts though, we could see yet another overreach by a studio wrongly assuming that all it needs is a half-baked story and a popular franchise in order to make it big.
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