Jurassic Park: Evolving the Movie Industry

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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.

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Spartacus: The Blockbuster

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“Spartacus: The Blockbuster” is an essay that explores blockbusters by writing a critical assessment of Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film Spartacus. The essay addresses the film’s characteristics that makes Spartacus a notable blockbuster. 

Author: Alberto D’Onofrio

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Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film Spartacus is an epic tale of the Thracian slave and gladiator, Spartacus, who struggles and fights for the freedom of slaves. The term “epic” is important for considering Spartacus as a blockbuster in the film world. As Sheldon Hall states, a blockbuster is, “something of great power, or size, especially an epic film” (Hall, 11) but also continues its definition at a financial perspective: “When a picture grosses $10,000,000 or more it’s blockbusting” (Hall, 11). Kubrick’s grand storytelling and filmmaking accomplishments reflect in the film’s ambitious distribution strategies that held Spartacus as the biggest financial success for Universal Studios for a decade (Link, 87).

Spartacus was released as a road show basis in the fall of 1960 (Pictures, 19), which is a distribution strategy applied to blockbuster films (Hall, 12). All the components of the road show were found in its release. Unlike film’s standardized 35mm prints, Spartacus was viewed in 70mm Technicolor film. Fifty color prints of 70mm were ordered making it the largest in Hollywood history. This resulted in over 900,000 feet of film! (UI’s big, 13). Alex North’s powerful and moving orchestral overture opened the film (Music, 59) and its grand length of over three hours was divided with an intermission. Souvenirs, including booklets providing the film’s info, were found in the lobbies of theaters.

Spartacus’ marketing also suggests Justin Wyatt’s high concept theory that the marketability of a film may be based on a narrative that is popular in a certain time period (Wyatt, 12). The epic narrative films were expensive but in a time period that brought in major profits (Miscellany, 2). These included The Robe (Koster, 1953), The Ten Commandments (DeMille, 1956) and Ben-Hur (Wyler, 1959).

Witnessing the work that Kubrick and the fine cast and crew accomplished in Spartacus, its blockbuster treatment was well deserved. Taking place in the 1st Century BCE, the film is decorated with set designs, props and costumes that reflect the historical setting magnificently. It serves well when the casts of thousands interact in that setting for great battle sequences, and likewise when smaller casts intimately interact, leaving the audience with great dramatic substance. As Pry critiques, this whale of a motion picture satisfies the multitudes (Pry, 6). Its success is not solely based on the sweeping landscapes and large-scale production. Kirk Douglas, the star of Spartacus, believed that “no matter how much is spent on a picture, its success depends first on the story and the character relationships” (Pictures, 7).

In conclusion, Spartacus was dealt with great craftsmanship under the mind of Stanley Kubrick. Its production value served well for the story, and the story served well for the characters. Because of this dynamic, the film received a diverse audience who were accustomed to epics in that time period, which led to its blockbuster performance. Something special about the hero himself, Spartacus, had an impact on audiences – a lasting impact that inspired people to repeat the lines: “I’m Spartacus, I’m Spartacus!”

List of Works Cited:

Ben-Hur. Dir. William Wyler. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 1959. Online.

Hall, Sheldon, “Tall Revenue Features: The Genealogy of the Modern Blockbuster,” in Genre and Contemporary Hollywood, ed. Steve Neale, London: BFI Publishing, 2002, 11-26.

Pictures: Sparking ‘spartacus’. (1960, Feb 10). Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 217, 19-19.

Pictures: ‘spartacus’ soars to $10-mil, new coast-made high. (1959, Aug 26). Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 215, 7-7, 20.

Miscellany: Cost the most, make the most? (1960, Nov 02). Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 220, 2-2, 17.

Music: New film directors accenting music as potent dramatic angle: Alex north. (1960, Oct 12). Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 220, 59-59.

Pry. (1960, Oct 12). Film reviews: Spartacus. Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 220, 6-6. Retrieved from

Spartacus. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Universal Pictures. 1960. DVD

The Robe. Dir. Henry Koster. 20th Century Fox. 1953. Online.

The Ten Commandments. Dir. Cecil B. DeMille. Paramount Pictures. 1956. Online.

Ui’s big 70m print order for ‘spartacus’. (1960, Aug 24). Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 219, 13-13.

Wyatt, Justin, “A Critical Redefinition: The Concept of High Concept,” in High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994, 1-22.

Link, Tom (1991). Universal City-North Hollywood: A Centennial Portrait. Chatsworth, CA: Windsor Publications. p. 87

Welcome!

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I am a student filmmaker with a love for film theory and practice. This blog will explore the medium with my own film essays, opinions, and personal work.

The header of my opening post is the logo for my production, D’Onofrio.Film Productions. Individual videos will be posted throughout, but for now, here’s the link to my Vimeo profile as an introduction to me as a filmmaker: https://vimeo.com/donofriofilm

Enjoy!