Who says dinosaurs don't still rule the Earth?
Universal's "Jurassic World," about genetically engineered dinosaurs that attack humans on a remote island tourist resort, took a bite out of the box office record books over the weekend in collecting an estimated $204.6 million for the second-largest domestic opening in history.
The reboot of Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" franchise stunned Hollywood as it surpassed even the most generous projections. Heading into the weekend, Universal had predicted an opening of about $100 million for the U.S. and Canada, and other industry experts had speculated that the film might fall in the $120-million to $150-million range.
Instead, "Jurassic World" became the second film to break the $200-million barrier in its first weekend. Only Marvel's "The Avengers" in 2012 opened larger, with a debut of $207.4 million. "Jurassic World" stomped past "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which opened in May at $191.3 million and now sits at No. 3 on the all-time opening list, according to Rentrak.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow and starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, "Jurassic World" received positive-to-mixed reviews from critics but scored an A from audience polling firm CinemaScore.
The film's success propels Trevorrow, who had only the low-budget "Safety Not Guaranteed" on his feature resume, to the top ranks of directors while solidifying the star appeal of Pratt after last year's hits "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "The Lego Movie."
"Does the word 'wow' sum it up?" said Nick Carpou, president of domestic distribution for Universal. "It's extraordinary. ... Colin always had this clarity about what this film should be."
Carpou also credited the studio's marketing team for capturing the popcorn-movie crowd.
"They did a fantastic job of getting the word out on how fun this movie is, and it more than delivers on that promise," he said, adding that the PG-13 release is a family film whose appeal stretches through all age groups. About 61% of viewers were older than 25. About 58% of the audience was male.
Asked why early estimates were off by so much, Carpou said that pre-release tracking was imprecise and that it had no scientific frame of reference for a film like "Jurassic World."
One factor clearly driving up the film's grosses: premium-priced 3-D tickets. An estimated $71 million of the domestic ticket sales were for the enhanced 3-D experience. Executives for RealD, a leading global licensor of 3-D, said Sunday that "Jurassic World" was their highest-grossing domestic debut ever, surpassing the previous record, $70 million for the original "Avengers" film.
The excitement of viewers wanting to see "Jurassic World" in 3-D "took on a life of its own," said Anthony Marcoly, president of worldwide cinema for RealD.
FOR THE RECORD
June 15, 10:15 a.m.: An earlier version of this article misidentified a leading global licensor of 3-D as Real 3D. The company is RealD.
"The first 'Jurassic Park' was 22 years ago, and most kids saw it either on TV or DVD," Marcoly said. "There was a lot of pent-up demand over what this movie would look like on the big screen in 3-D."
The turnout for "Jurassic World" could mark a turnaround for what has been a disappointing summer film season, said senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak. The dinosaur flick may have benefited from pent-up demand after the collective shrug moviegoers gave "Tomorrowland," a disappointment when Disney released it over the Memorial Day weekend last month.
"There have been three down weekends, including Memorial Day," Dergarabedian said. "It really is about momentum. There's a lot of big films coming out in June and July, and a lot of ground can be made up if those films deliver.
"'Jurassic World' not only delivered, it over-delivered. There's no better salve for a struggling box office than a movie that opens with a 2 at the front."
The appetite for "Jurassic World" also was massive overseas. The film collected $307.2 million in 66 territories, beating the previous record holder, Universal's "Furious 7," which opened with $250.4 million. (The record comes with an asterisk, however: Some studios choose to stagger release dates worldwide, so a film like "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which has made more than $910 million abroad, will see its ticket sales spread over time versus spiked in a single weekend.)
Insiders can start speculating whether Disney and Pixar's animated "Inside Out," which opens Friday, will slow "Jurassic World's" momentum.
Among other films performing admirably: Last week's top movie, the R-rated comedy "Spy" starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham, dropped a respectable 45% to land in second place with $16 million. It has made $56.9 million.
The Warner Bros. earthquake thriller "San Andreas" continued to shake up audiences, coming in third with $11 million and raising its a domestic total to $119.3 million.
Fourth place went to "Insidious Chapter 3," which brought in $7.3 million in its second weekend. The PG-rated horror film has collected $37.4 million.
Rounding out the top five was "Pitch Perfect 2," which added $6 million to its $170.6 total.
In specialty release, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," which won the grand jury and audience awards at the Sundance Film Festival, opened in six markets and 15 theaters to a respectable $210,000. Its three-day per-screen average of $14,000 was second only to that of "Jurassic World."
Fox Searchlight, which is marketing and distributing the film, plans to roll out the picture in 10 additional markets next week and expand in cities where it's already opened.