To this day, I don't know when it first appeared on my radar, or how I saw my first bit of footage. All I remember is that T-Rex foot coming down in the mud with a sinister squish, and knowing this was going to be one hell of a movie. And it was. I'll never forget that first shot of the brachiosaurus. I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing. When the shot expanded to the swamp filled with dinosaurs, my mind knew it was that new thing called CGI, but my heart was half-convinced Spielberg really had cloned dinosaurs. It sounds pretentious, but I knew movies were going to never be the same again. This was the future, and I was going to see it. If you could go back in time and tell young Beth that she'd be employed to write constantly about it well, she wouldn't be surprised. She knew she wasn't going to be a paleontologist, anyway.
So large does Jurassic Park loom in my memory that it's kind of funny to see what else was released that summer -- and how drastically the idea of a "summer blockbuster season" has changed since the 90s. Let's revisit, shall we ...
4/30 The first weekend of the what is now the blockbuster season kicks off not with an X-Men Origins: Wolverine but with Splitting Heirs, Three of Hearts, Bound by Honor, and The Night We Never Met. Not one of them cracked #1, everyone was still watching Indecent Proposal and arguing who they'd bang for a million bucks.
5/7 Now we're into primo summer territory in 2009 terms, but 1993 still played it relatively quiet with Dave, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, American Heart and Much Ado About Nothing. Dragon topped the charts that weekend, with Dave taking #2. It would probably still go down that way, but Much Ado would get a wide release and do better business. It might be Shakespeare, but that's a huge cast even for 1993.
5/14 Another limp weekend with Lost in Yonkers, Posse, and Excessive Force. Posse did manage to make it to #3, and Yonkers to #5. I don't think I've seen any one of these.
5/21 We're getting warmer with Hot Shots: Part Deux, Sliver and Carnosaur, which was clearly hoping to steal Jurassic Park's pre-release thunder. It didn't work. Instead, #1 went to Sliver and #2 to the Hot Shots sequel. How much do you want to bet they'd be reversed today? I think stalker sex sells less than spoofy comedy.
5/28 In the Dark Ages of 16 Years Ago, the summer blockbuster season clearly kicked off on the May 28. Cliffhanger, Happily Ever After, Made in America, Super Mario Bros, and Menace II Society all came out this weekend. Not surprisingly, Cliffhanger took #1, Made in America #2, Super Mario Bros #4, and Menace #7. Menace might take a higher spot today, and Mario Bros an even lower one, as the bad Internet buzz would have sunk it The Spirit style. In fact, I think Mario was the first movie that left my 11 year old self absolutely furious at how bad a movie could be.
6/4 We're into June now, and the offerings are still pretty meh and long forgotten. Guilty As Sin, Life With Mikey and Music of Chance tried to take on Sly Stallone and Whoopi Goldberg. They failed, though Guilty did make it to #2. They still wouldn't make it.
6/11 No one tried to go up against Jurassic Park but Tina Turner. What's Love Got To Do With It came out this weekend and couldn't even crack the top ten. Some interesting indie offerings though: Equinox and Orlando catered to the arthouse crowd and this was the weekend that America first met a man named Russell Crowe in the controversial Romper Stomper. Fast forward 16 years, and he's more of a draw than anyone on the 1993 top ten ... which is exactly how it should be!
6/18 Last Action Hero was supposed to be the summer movie of 1993. This is the weekend it didn't happen, though it did make #2. What would the Internet buzz do to its opening take today?
6/25 Dennis the Menace, Sleepless in Seattle, and House of Cards venture out. No one tops the T-Rex, but as it's busy eating the corpse of the Last Action Hero, Seattle comes close at #2. Dennis takes #3 presumably on the strength of the younger set being too scared to see Jurassic Park. I hated Last Action Hero but damn, it should have held out against Dennis. No one deserves to come in behind that!
7/2 It's the Fourth of July weekend! In 2009, I think this would have been a weekend held for the debut of Jurassic Park or Last Action Hero, but Paramount went adult with The Firm. Son in Law and a re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves also tried to take advantage. The Firm finally took the top spot away from Jurassic Park, which held steady at #2, and Sleepless in Seattle at #3. Given the current taste for comedy, I think Son in Law might have debuted higher. (I completely forgot that was Carla Gugino!)
7/9 In the Line of Fire, Rookie of the Year, and Weekend at Bernies II are the midsummer offerings. Though he was fresh off Unforgiven and the strongest offering of the bunch, Clint Eastwood didn't take the top spot but came in at #3! Today, I don't think a sophomore The Firm would hold out against Fire -- and I'm pretty sure Fire would have been given a BIG release date like July 4 instead of just plunked in the middle of the summer. But back in the day, you didn't need a "big" release date for the buzz, just a solid cast and a solid plot.
7/16 Free Willy and Hocus Pocus allow Eastwood to muscle in and take #2. The craptastic Hocus Pocus does one better than the superior Free Willy, which manages to makes a splash at #5. I remember sniffling at this one, and I continued to tear up all summer every time I heard the Michael Jackson theme song. Hey, I like animal stories, especially ones with big, smiley mammals like whales.
7/23 Summer is rapidly losing steam with Another Stakeout (talk about a summer of lousy comedy sequels), Coneheads (oh yeah, and the continuation of the SNL movie trend), and Poetic Justice. Surprisingly, the strong Poetic Justice actually takes #1 and the other two fall flat. I'd like to think this would still happen, but somehow I think more families would follow the example of mine and see Coneheads. For the record, we were disgusted by it.
7/30 A busy weekend withRising Sun, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, So I Married An Axe Murderer, and Tom and Jerry: The Movie. Rising Sun takes #1, benefitting from the triple punch of Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, and Michael Crichton. Free Willy climbs to #4, Poetic Justice drops to #7, no one else even cracks the top five though Robin Hood comes close at #6. I remember my sister was mad because my parents wouldn't take her to see it, but they deemed it too adult for us. We were starting to get jokes about chastity belts, you see ...
8/1 The Fugitive, Meteor Man, and My Boyfriend's Back usher in August. I don't think I even need to say what took the top spot, it's pretty legendary. What a good summer this was for thrillers!
8/13 Heart and Souls, The Secret Garden, and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday are the offerings on this unlucky weekend. People can't resist a Jason movie on Friday the 13th, and it takes #2 away from Connery. I saw The Secret Garden (which came in at #4) and pretended like I was too cool for it. I know better now, it's a lovely film. Heart and Souls languished at #6. Somewhere, Robert Downey Jr. is feeling good about himself.
8/20 John Woo's American debut Hard Target and Surf Ninjas. Hard Target took #2, the crappiness of Surf Ninjas meant more families forced their kids to watch The Secret Garden which climbed to #3.
8/27 Summer goes out not with a bang, but a "Ok, then." Mel Gibson makes his directorial debut The Man Without a Face, with Needful Things, Only the Strong, Father Hood, This Thing Called Love, and Son of the Pink Panther as competition. Needful Things takes #2, Gibson falters at #4, and no one else cracks the top ten. I'm very glad my parents took me to see The Man Without a Face instead of Father Hood -- while I was bored out of my mind, I can hold my head up with pride.
Overall, it's a pretty solid summer -- and box office wise, Jurassic Park, The Fugitive, The Firm, Sleepless in Seattle, In the Line of Fire, and Cliffhanger all ended up being in the top ten of 1993. They've held up over time too, which isn't something a lot of summer flicks can say. But I have to say, every year really has its share of crappy trends (Pauly Shore! SNL!), surprises, and throwaways. As summer films seem to become more disposable and more of a CG assault on the senses than solid filmmaking, it's kind of comforting to know that nothing has really changed after all ...