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Another Falling Kingdom? ‘Jurassic World’ Sequel Opens Lower Than the Last Movie

This is hardly franchise fatigue, but it is a reminder not to overstay your welcome.
By  · Published on June 25th, 2018

This is hardly franchise fatigue, but it is a reminder not to overstay your welcome.

Nobody expected Jurassic World to open as big as it did. Projections back in 2015 assumed it wouldn’t sell more than 17 million tickets in its first weekend. The reboot sequel wound up with an attendance of 25.3 million in its initial three days of domestic release (for those who want monetary figures, that was, at the time, the largest amount ever, at $208.8 million — or, with inflation still the second-best, slightly below The Avengers, with $231.8 million in today’s dollars). In other words, that movie was shockingly huge.

As for the follow-up, analysts were still assuming lower numbers. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was predicted for no more than 14 million tickets sold its opening weekend. In fact, the sequel’s attendance was about 16.2 million. That’s pretty good for any kind of movie. It’s the fourth best opening of 2018, and we’re almost half a year in. But it’s still only 65% of the attendance that its predecessor had. For the phenomenal success that Jurassic World had three years ago, why isn’t Fallen Kingdom as popular, at least in the US?

That’s hard to determine. Maybe the last Jurassic World movie looked brighter and more adventurous compared to the dark disaster movie mixed with horror film appeals of Fallen Kingdom. The new movie’s CinemaScore grade, based on opening night audience polling, is an ‘A-‘ compared to the previous installment’s ‘A.’ That’s a big difference in terms of what the fans got versus what they wanted or at least expected. Or maybe it was the distinctly worse reviews (Fallen Kingdom‘s Rotten Tomatoes score is now 50% compared to Jurassic World‘s 71%).

Or perhaps it’s just that the last one had higher anticipation for being the first part of the Jurassic series in 14 years. And this one wasn’t quite as exciting coming out just three years later. All these reboot sequels or legacy sequels, or whatever you want to call them, seem to peak with the initial return then drop at least somewhat with subsequent installments. Look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens with its still-reigning record opening weekend attendance of 28.5 million compared to its follow-up, The Last Jedi, which did 24 million.

Also: 2009’s Star Trek reboot, the first feature for the brand in seven years, debuted with an attendance of 10.1 million, a franchise-best. Still a franchise-best, too, since the last two Star Trek movies saw declining ticket sales of 8.4 million and then 7 million for their openings. Prometheus resurrected the Alien series after 15 years (not including the crossovers) and peaked with a franchise-best debut of 6.3 million people. That was followed by Alien: Covenant five years later debuting with a draw of only 4 million people.

Not every late-coming reboot-quel is so fortunate, of course. Independence Day: Resurgence sold just 4.7 million tickets in its first weekend compared to the first movie’s 11.4 million tickets sold during its debut 20 years earlier. Vacation, which brought back the Griswalds for the first time in 18 years, gave the franchise its worst opening weekend attendance with 1.8 million. That’s a million fewer tickets than even Vegas Vacation sold in its debut. But others, like Blade Runner 2049 and Tron: Legacy did have better attendance, but not better enough.

Fallen Kingdom sure isn’t a disappointment. So what if it opened worse than its predecessor? The movie still debuted higher in the US than was forecast, by more than 2 million tickets sold (or $20 million gross). Its opening weekend is still the franchise’s second best, with those extra 2 million people allowing it to top the next-best, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (that was when first sequels would outdo the original but then also be the peak, before a third movie’s decline). And while it hardly made the record books with its worldwide opening, Fallen Kingdom, which released internationally weeks ago, has already grossed $711.5 million globally.

Still, the drop from the last one, at least domestically, is significant. Fallen Kingdom won’t wind up making close to the amount of Jurassic World here. And the next one, already scheduled for release in another three years (June 11, 2021), will likely open a lot smaller at home. And that’s why after Jurassic World 3, Universal should put the franchise on hiatus again for a while. That should be the case for a lot of other franchises, too. Star Wars showed a stunning drop in opening weekend attendance with its latest, Solo: A Star War Story. That was after three well-performing releases. Give a series three parts, then give it a break.

Or give us a break after just one resurrection. Incredibles 3 will take a while anyway because it’s animated, but why not hold for another 14 years? The reason Incredibles 2 had a 76% increase in its opening weekend ticket sales compared to the original is that over the years the audience size and anticipation grew beyond what it would have been a decade ago. And with this past weekend, we’re already seeing the movie’s interest falling. Where the first movie only dropped 28.7% in attendance in its second weekend, Incredibles 2 dropped 55.7% from last weekend.

That’s not bad word of mouth (both installments received similar receptions from critics and audiences alike), just a difference of the first weekend bringing in so many fans who couldn’t wait any longer. The attendance was so much more frontloaded. Big dips happen to most of these resurrected franchises with the second weekends of the first returning episode’s release, close to or more than 50%. And then the drop with the opening of the next sequel is a similar result of lessening excitement for the lessening rarity of that property and those characters.

I’m curious to see if Creed II has a similar decrease when it opens later this year. But I’m more curious to see what happens with Indiana Jones 5, which will arrive 12 years after the last installment, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which came out 19 years after its predecessor. Indy 4 sold almost twice as many tickets in its debut as any of the older installments. If Indy 5 had come out in 2011, its opening weekend attendance would have likely been smaller, and not just because of the lukewarm reception of part four.

But with part five, audience’s anticipation will have grown again with the added time, which also will allow for ample distance from the much-hated prior episode, not unlike how Star Wars was alotted so many years to pass after the release of the last of the prequels (which were experiencing diminishing returns) before The Force Awakens came and rebounded the franchise and its fandom with its record-breaking achievement.

Jurassic World 3 will be out a year following Indy 5, and by that point, the Jurassic World run won’t be able to get by as well with Chris Pratt’s wannabe Indiana Jones charms, whether the next Indy movie does well or not. Jurassic World 3 will do more than fine. There will always be fans of this franchise, especially young ones (kids love dinosaurs, you know?). But regardless, after 2021, let’s wait until at least 2035 before Jurassic Universe hits theaters.

Here are the weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – 16.2 million (16.2 million)
2. Incredibles 2 – 8.8 million (38.3 million)
3. Ocean’s 8 – 1.3 million (11 million)
4. Tag – 0.9 million (3.3 million)
5. Deadpool 2 – 0.6 (33.2 million)
6. Solo: A Star Wars Story – 0.44 million (22.1 million)
7. Hereditary – 0.42 million (3.8 million)
8. Superfly – 0.37 milllion (1.7 million)
9. Avengers: Infinity War – 0.27 million (73.1 million)
10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor – 0.2 million (0.5 million)

All non-forecast box office data via Box Office Mojo.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.