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“Jurassic Park: Evolving the Movie Industry” is an essay that explores the production conditions of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster film Jurassic Park by analyzing its exhibition, marketing, and technology.
Author: Alberto D’Onofrio
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A billionaire philanthropist and a group of scientists successfully cloned dinosaurs and situated the prehistoric creatures in an amusement park on the remote island of Isla Nebula. They called it Jurassic Park. Of course, this is a fiction, depicted in the 1993 film Jurassic Park directed by Steven Spielberg. From previous accomplishments at a blockbuster level that include Jaws (1975) and E.T The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Spielberg is one of the few directors that can create a unique big-budget film that is, “visually spectacular, narratively straight-forward, stylistically innocuous [meaning inoffensive], and compatible with the parent conglomerate’s global marketing and franchising strategies” (Schatz, 51). Like the impact the fictitious world of Jurassic Park had on its characters, its impact on the film industry was likewise extraordinary and significant to the film’s success – success based on its exhibition tactics, marketing, production and technology.
Jurassic Park adopted a new trend in film exhibition, which was tele-ticketing: a form where audiences purchased tickets over the telephone (Jurassic’s Mark, 13). Audiences did have to pay the extra dollar or so to purchase the ticket with this system but they were guaranteed seats for films with high-demand (Other, 8). During the film’s release, some questioned the longevity of this technology, but this concern would not last long when the system was proven successful for Jurassic Park. MovieFone sales were responsible for two-thirds of Jurassic Park’s opening weekend sale in New York and Los Angeles (Marketing News, 11) and cinema tele-ticketing sales grew 60% because of Jurassic Park, which became the biggest telephone order to a movie (Jurassic’s Mark, 13). The popularity of this technology grew from its financial performance and is significant to contemporary film exhibition as discussed by author Charles Acland: “The film industry and cultural practices is bending to economic and technological change” (Acland, 85). MovieFone is an example of Alcand’s statement, as it spawned online purchasing of films on Movielink, Apple iTunes, and Amazon.com. Certainly, studios do receive more than merely the big-buck of the audience through tele-ticketing. With access to the ticket buyer’s information, studios have the opportunity to send film merchandise advertisement (Marketing News, 11), a feature to Jurrasic Park’s campaign.
Media conglomerates, the merging of film and other media industries (Schatz, 45), had an impact on Jurassic Park’s ability to spark synergies with companies and develop extensive merchandise, including interactive media, theme park attractions and miscellaneous products such as Jurassic JuJu Dinosaurs Concession Pack candies directly marketed for theater concession stands (New Products, 23). Conglomerating was an early objective for Jurassic Park, as during post-production, Amblin and Universal announced 100 companies that would launch 1000 products of the film that included a theme park, toys, Milton Bradley board games, Nintendo video games, and cross-markets with McDonalds, a frequent marketing collaborator with Spielberg films (National News, 24). These products illustrate Charles Acland’s statement that film business extends outside of the film presentation (Acland, 85). Jurassic Park’s attraction at Universal Studios Florida offered a water ride that MCA described as a ride that “takes you into Jurassic Park, just like in the movie” (Variations, 18). The true thrill ride, however, still lies within the film celluloid, where Spielberg’s use of computer-generated imagery, animatronics and digital sound turn the dinosaurs into believable creatures on screen.
The progression of technology offers synergies with multimedia, but it is also offers new software to produce realistic computer-generated imagery. Co-founder of VIFX/Video Image Greg McMurry praised Jurassic Park, a film that gave rise to a new age for digital imaging for its use of CGI, by stating, “That was really the turning point for the medium, when filmmakers began to see the possibilities and to want to use them” (Loewenstein, 72). Author Geoff King argues that although contemporary blockbusters use too many effects that ultimately distract the filmmakers from story and character development, there are still spectacular Hollywood blockbusters that do invest their craft on narrative (King, 119). King uses James Cameron’s Terminator 2 (1991) as an example of well-motivated use of CGI, and the same can be argued for Jurassic Park. Spielberg gives great detail to the characters and because of this, we feel emotionally attached to them. When they are in danger by the dinosaurs, we are scared, and when they are in awe, we are too. With CGI, Spielberg also incorporates animatronics technology from the past, only heightening its realism.
Juxtaposed with its visuals, the sound of Jurassic Park is just as grand, and was deservingly played with DTS (Digital Theater Systems). A thousand US cinemas were equipped with DTS specifically for its release (Hazelton, 7) and offered an overwhelming experience. The enhanced audio playback offered a high-fidelity range that can truly capture the sounds of a dinosaur’s footsteps from afar to the menacing sound of their roars, complementing their realistic appearance on screen.
In conclusion, Jurassic Park’s exhibition standards, merchandising and digital imagery lead to its worldwide financial success. The power of its production and marketing, with the technology available at the time, seized the industry, and lead the way to industry standards we are accustomed to today.
List of Works Cited:
Acland, Charles R. “Theatrical Exhibition: Accelerated Cinema” in The Contemporary Hollywood Industry, eds. Paul McDonald and Janet Wasko, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008, 83-105.
Hazelton, J. (1993, Jun 04). Digital dinosaurs to roar worldwide. Screen International (Archive: 1976-2000), , 7-7.
Jurassic’s mark. (1993, Jul 23). Screen International (Archive: 1976-2000), , 13-15.
Jurassic Park. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Universal Pictures. 1993. DVD.
King, Geoff. “Spactacle, Narrative, and the Spectacular Hollywood Blockbuster,” in Movie Blockbusters, ed. Julian Stringer, New York: Routledge, 2003, 114-127.
Loewenstein, L. (1996, Apr 01). SPECIAL REPORT: Bubbles, blastoffs, morphs and monsters. Boxoffice (Archive: 1920-2000), 132, 72-72, 74, 76.
Marketing news: Ticket tactics. (1997, Oct 31). Screen International (Archive: 1976-2000), , 11-11.
NATIONAL NEWS: Jurassic park: A thousand points of licensing. (1993, Apr 01). Boxoffice (Archive: 1920-2000), 129, 24-24.
New products: Spring/summer buying guide. (1993, May 01). Boxoffice (Archive: 1920-2000), 129, 18-29.
Other. (1993, Jul 09). Screen International (Archive: 1976-2000), , 8-8.
Schatz, Thomas. “Film Industry Studies and Hollywood History,” in Media Industries: History, Theory, and Method, eds. Jennifer Holt and Alisa Perren, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, 45-56.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Dir. James Cameron. TriStar Pictures. 1991. Online.
Variations on a theme. (1993, Sep 10). Screen International (Archive: 1976-2000), , 18-18.