(Image Credit: Universal Studios)
So in case you’ve been living under a rock, you are likely aware that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens this weekend. Hell, even if you have been under a rock (I assume the rent price was too agreeable to pass up), you’ve likely seen an advertisement for the fifth film in the Jurassic Park franchise. The marketing for this film, a direct follow-up to the decent 2015 film with an amazing final sequence, has been inescapable. Last week, NBC dubbed its programming part of “Jurassic Week” (sadly, none of the dinosaurs ate Jimmy Fallon) and Dairy Queen is serving a “Jurassic Blizzard” (sadly, it is not made with pieces of actual dinosaurs) along with the inundation of commercials across NBCUniversal stations.
Aggressive marketing campaigns for studio tent-poles, especially big budget sequels, are nothing new, stoking interest among the general public and creating a sense of demand to see the new film immediately, with box office grosses relying on a substantial opening weekend. With two and three year gaps typical for movie franchises, advertisements aim to rekindle interest in the brand and ensure that fans show up for opening weekend.
But, the marketing for the new Jurassic World seems particularly saturated and largely unnecessary. After all, the preceding film opened to $208 million, the largest opening weekend at the time until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens later that year, and went on to gross almost $1.7 billion dollars worldwide, the fifth highest grossing film of all time. Through nostalgia for the original film and the continued interest in the property through sequels, toy sales, and, umm, questionable video games, it would seem as though everyone is aware that of the Jurassic Park franchise, making the aggressive marketing of the new film superfluous and potential detrimental through overexposure.
Yes, the advertisements for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are too much. But, rather than an attempt to capture new fans or spark interest among people unaware of the film, the aggressive marketing of the new dinosaur flick is a defensive measure by Universal Studios, almost an act of desperation to ensure a big opening weekend along with the viability of the studio’s immediate plans.
Turning the clocks back to 2015, and Universal Studios was sitting pretty. The box office haul of Jurassic World exceeded the studios lofty expectations, and the substantial grosses of Furious 7, Minions (collective eye roll), Fifty Shades of Grey (even harder collective eye roll), along with modest hits like Pitch Perfect 2 and Straight Outta Compton resulted in a very successful year for the studio. In fact, 2015 marked the highest grossing year for a single studio in history, with Universal eventually earning $6.9 billion from the earnings of all of its films.
However, just like the impressive box office records for Jurassic World, Universal’s massive success was short-lived. Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke the opening weekend box office record merely six months later, and Walt Disney Studios became the dominant movie studio a year after the best year in Universal’s history. The collective performance of all of its films surpassed $7 billion dollars in 2016, and another successful year in 2017 made Disney the first film to make $6 billion dollars in back to back years. Again, before Universal did it in 2015, no film studio ever made more than $6 billion in a single year, and the fact that rival Disney did it in back to back years nullified Universal’s breakthrough swiftly and decisively.
The future also looks to favor Disney. The company that owns the rights to Marvel Studios, the Star Wars franchise, along with many of the most successful animated films of all time, legally owning your childhood, looks to continue producing successful hits with reliable franchises and intellectual properties, the impressive box office haul of Avenger: Infinity War making up for the “disappointment” of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Universal, does not have it so easy. While the films released by Illumination (the Minions people) will likely fare well, the interest in the Fast and Furious franchise appears to be waning, and that’s before the tension behind the scenes between Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Launching the “Dark Universe,” Universal’s attempt at a sprawling cinematic universe by reviving the Universal monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.) in the same manner as Marvel proved to be an utter disaster both critically and commercially.
Thus, the Jurassic Park franchise appears to be the most reliable property for Universal Studios, likely feeling encircled by the success of Disney as well as forthcoming agreement to purchase Twentieth Century Fox. Though the new Jurassic World will almost certainly be a hit, what Universal wants and arguably needs is for Fallen Kingdom to equal the box office haul of Infinity War, a movie still playing in theaters that has already surpassed $2 billion worldwide. Though the sheer volume of advertisements may seem offensive, it is purely a defensive strategy by Universal Studios to keep pace in the current box office climate.