What do you think of when you hear the phrase “The Big Ticket For ‘93”? In hindsight, people may think that Jurassic Park is a shoo-in for this lofty honor. However, if you were to travel back to the months leading up to that particular summer, you’d have seen that this statement was intended to sell another film. Believe it or not, when Jurassic Park came out, Last Action Hero was the movie people thought was going to take the box office crown.
I remember very distinctly that [Jurassic Park’s] big competition was a movie called Last Action Hero, with [Arnold] Schwarzenegger. It was a big thing where it was like … ‘Which film’s gonna make it to number 1?’ So we thought it was gonna obviously do well, but as a kid I really didn’t think about that stuff.
Historical hindsight aside, looking at the landscape of Hollywood at the time would have made Last Action Hero a safe bet. It was all thanks to the previous occasion Spielberg and Schwarzenegger saw projects take flight at the box office, as 1991 saw Terminator 2: Judgement Day propel Arnold and company to unprecedented success. Meanwhile, Jurassic Park’s director saw himself in a bit of a rough patch, as Steven Spielberg’s Hook was a mixed bag of box office results that were considered disappointing, even if they looked good on paper.
With Arnold Schwarzenegger riding an all-time high in his career, Jurassic Park’s pedigree shined best when it came to the fact that best-selling sci-fi author Michael Crichton was the mind behind the film’s story and some of its early script work. Still, that didn’t stop Last Action Hero from promising the world to audiences, with a trailer like the one below:
As we’ve seen in the course of events that followed, Jurassic Park debuted on June 11, 1993, with a $50.1 million opening weekend that broke the record set by Batman Returns the previous year. Meanwhile, Last Action Hero opened the week after on June 18, and ended its domestic box office run grossing roughly the amount that Jurassic Park’s opening weekend brought in.
The success of Steven Spielberg’s big dinosaur movie was something that the cast may not have seen coming, but once Joseph Mazzello and company saw the results, it felt all the more unbelievable. Mazzello said:
We saw it was number 1, and then it just stayed number 1 week after week after week, and at the time became the highest grossing movie ever. … That was something I just could never have possibly imagined. Ever.
Joseph Mazzello’s life would change because of of Jurassic Park's success, as he not only scored gigs because of his role of Tim Murphy, but he also got to benefit from the experience of having Steven Spielberg as a mentor. It’s hard to imagine that Mazzello could have starred in Hook instead of Jurassic Park; just as it’s difficult to think of a world where Last Action Hero somehow topped the box office.
That’s what’s so fun about the theatrical box office: you never truly know where the next surprise lies. With history firmly on the side of the adventure 65 million years in the making, we would get sequels, video games and tons of other content that would open up the world of Jurassic Park.
Though time hasn’t totally forgotten about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s supposed misfire, as Last Action Hero has its own contingent of fans that have made it into a cult classic. So you could say that everybody went home happy at the end of the day, even if the scales will always be tipped very much in the favor of Jurassic Park. Curse you, Bill Clinton.
Jurassic World: Dominion continues the rich history of Jurassic franchise excitement on June 11, 2021.