Dino fans’ mighty roar

Film­go­ers flex power as ‘ Juras­sic World’ closes in on $ 1 bil­lion at global box of­fice.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Julie Maki­nen

BEI­JING — At 4: 30 in the af­ter­noon, Zhou Xinxin, a 35- year- old vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing for a Chi­nese med­i­cal com­pany, was play­ing hooky from work. He set­tled into a plush red chair at the IMAX Wanda Cin­ema in cen­tral Bei­jing, donned a pair of 3- D glasses and pre­pared to get his fill of ve­loci­rap­tors, T. rexes and tricer­atops. “I was in a bad mood,” he said, “so I asked for the day off.”

For the next two hours, Zhou laughed, gasped and nearly jumped out of his seat twice as the pre­his­toric beasts of “Juras­sic World” stomped and chomped across the screen. He chor­tled when Owen made fun of Claire’s high heels, won­dered aloud what kind of guns were be­ing used, and cracked up when the two lead char­ac­ters smooched af­ter nar­rowly avoid­ing the jaws of death.

“I re­ally love Amer­i­can f ilms — even amid the hor-

ror, there’s a hu­man­ity,” said Zhou, who’s seen all the pre­vi­ous “Juras­sic” pic­tures. “In the be­gin­ning, Claire doesn’t care about re­la­tion­ships but then comes to fo­cus on the fam­ily bonds. Even the rap­tors can com­mu­ni­cate, they show their hu­man side.”

Meet just one of the Chi­nese movie­go­ers be­hind the global roar of Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures’ “Juras­sic World,” which has made an es­ti­mated $ 981.3 mil­lion in­ter­na­tion­ally and is ex­pected to set a record for the short­est amount of time to sur­pass $ 1 bil­lion — just 13 days. More than $ 150 mil­lion of that is from China, the world’s sec- ond- big­gest mar­ket, where the ge­net­i­cally re­vived and reengi­neered di­nosaurs got a jump start by barg­ing onto screens two days be­fore they did in the U. S.

De­cod­ing the ap­peal of three- di­men­sional di­nosaurs isn’t ex­actly rocket science. Like cin­ema buffs in many coun­tries, Chi­nese film­go­ers hold Steven Spiel­berg — di­rec­tor of the f irst two movies in the se­ries and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the third and fourth in­stall­ments — in high re­gard. But China’s movie mar­ket was es­sen­tially closed to for­eign f ilms when the orig­i­nal “Juras­sic Park” was re­leased in 1993, so Chi­nese au­di­ences

never had the chance to see it in the­aters.

A 3- D re- re­lease of the orig­i­nal did fe­ro­cious busi­ness in China in 2013, rack­ing up about $ 56 mil­lion in ticket sales, about $ 11 mil­lion more than in the U. S. re- re­lease. To stoke in­ter­est in the new f ilm, Uni­ver­sal brought di­rec­tor Colin Trevor­row and stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dal­las Howard to the main­land for a press tour in late May. Thanks to his turn in “Guardians of the Gal­axy” last year, Pratt is build­ing a base of fans on the main­land, where he’s known to many of them sim­ply as Star- Lord, his “Guardians” char­ac­ter.

Fans on Douban. com, one of China’s big­gest sites, have given “Juras­sic World” an av­er­age of eight out of 10 stars. Online, view­ers have delved into myr­iad de­tails of the movie, dis­cussing Howard’s footwear and hairdo, teas­ing out the through­lines from the ear­lier in­stall­ments and the larger Spiel­berg f ilm canon, and dis­cussing the moral of the story. ( A Uni­ver­sal rep­re­sen­ta­tive said the pic­ture had not been edited or cen- sored for the Chi­nese mar­ket.)

“22 years af­ter the gates of Juras­sic Park opened, when that back­ground mu­sic be­gan, my heart was afire,” wrote one fan, who called him­self Gar­lic Boy A. “The all star- di­nosaurs from the pre­vi­ous three in­stall- ments showed up. Hu­man be­ings tram­pled na­ture, and di­nosaurs re­paid hu­mans, which was the high­light of the en­tire film. Ve­loci­rap­tors served as a thread, tyran­nosaurs from the f irst f ilm reap­peared, and the scene of the mosasaurus was a salute to ‘ Jaws.’ ”

One fe­male fan pon­dered how Claire ap­peared to have “got­ten a perm” while res­cu­ing her neph­ews, while another in­quired about the brand of her nude pumps. “You can climb, wade, drive, f ight and run ahead of a tyran­nosaurus in those shoes!” she mar­veled.

“Juras­sic World” is rid­ing a surge of in­ter­est in Amer­i­can tent- pole films in China. This spring, Uni­ver­sal’s “Fu­ri­ous 7” shat­tered box- of­fice records here with about $ 380 mil­lion in re­ceipts, while “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has made al­most $ 240 mil­lion.

In the lobby of the Wanda theater, pa­trons can stow their be­long­ings in coin lock­ers fes­tooned with im­ages of Marvel and DC Comics char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Spi­der- Man, Bat­man and Thor. On one wall, au­to­graphs of Hol­ly­wood di­rec­tors in­clud­ing Michael Bay and Brett Rat­ner are show­cased along­side those of Chi­nese stars; the cin­ema has also hosted Bei­jing pre­mieres of U. S. f ilms in­clud­ing “Trans­form­ers: Age of Ex­tinc­tion” and “Her­cules.”

Across from a con­ces­sion stand, dis­play cases held ex­pen­sive col­lectible fig­urines for sale: a 12- inch- tall Hulk for $ 900, an Iron Man for $ 655. A life- size Su­per­man statue stood stoic out­side the theater where “Juras­sic World” played, while the walls were cov­ered with il­lu­mi­nated posters fea­tur­ing Wolver­ine, Mag­neto, Storm and other Marvel char­ac­ters.

Though home­grown Chi­nese films have also been do­ing well at the box of­fice this year — some ti­tles have earned $ 150 mil­lion — last week, the f ive top- gross­ing movies were all im­ports: “Juras­sic World,” “San An­dreas,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” plus the In­dian movie “P. K.” and the Ja­panese car­toon “Stand by Me Do­rae­mon,” ac­cord­ing to f ilm in­dus­try con­sult­ing f irm Ar­ti­san Gate­way.

Posters in the hall­way teased more Hol­ly­wood fare: “In­sur­gent” this month, “Minions” in July and “Fan­tas­tic Four” in Au­gust.

Clutch­ing a $ 5 bucket of ket­tle corn, 31- year- old Zhou Yuan ac­com­pa­nied her boy- friend, Zhang Chao, 36, into a 6: 50 p. m. show­ing of “Juras­sic World.” The cou­ple had paid $ 17 apiece for their tick­ets but called the price rea­son­able.

“I don’t see too many Chi­nese f ilms,” Zhang said. “They have no plot, and the vis­ual ef­fects are bad.”

Richard You, an ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent, comes to the movies ev­ery week. Re­cently, he’s taken in “Fu­ri­ous 7” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as well as Chi­nese pro­duc­tions such as “Wolf Totem,” another 3- D ac­tion f ilm fea­tur­ing vi­cious crea­tures.

“Chi­nese f ilms are get­ting bet­ter,” he said. “I like both.”

Hav­ing seen the f irst three “Juras­sic” f ilms on DVD, You was ea­ger to f in­ally get a chance to catch the ac­tion on a su­per­size screen, and he brought his girl­friend along for the ex­pe­ri­ence. “I’m sat­is­fied. I es­pe­cially liked how they in­cor­po­rated mu­sic from the ear­lier films and paid trib­ute to the past movies,” he said. “It was pretty awe­some.”

Julie Maki­nen Los An­ge­les Times

ZHOU YUAN and her boyfriend, Zhang Chao, head into a screen­ing of “Juras­sic World” at a Bei­jing theater.

Julie Maki­nen Los An­ge­les Times

A THEATER in Bei­jing in­cludes comic book char­ac­ters, part of a surge in in­ter­est in U. S. tent- pole f ilms.

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