Hollywood in thrall to dino-dollars

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The Independent Online
HOLLYWOOD was yesterday heartily congratulating itself after proving yet again the potency of a favourite four-letter word. Hype on a grand scale guaranteed that its latest creation, Jurassic Park, secured a place among the record-breakers.

Despite reservations among some critics about its quality and its suitability for children, industry estimates projected that Steven Spielberg's dinosaur horror movie took the most money for any film in history over a non-holiday weekend. Saturday's take of dollars 18m (pounds 12m) was the largest amount ever grossed by a film in one day.

Around 9.6 million people, many of whom queued for hours, paid some dollars 48.5m this weekend to see the 65-million-year-old monsters Spielberg has brought to life with extraordinary special effects. In a country in which four-syllable words can seem as extinct as dinosaurs, the population is teeming with instant palaeontology experts who are as conversant with brachiosaurs as they are with baseball.

But rumblings about the content are also gathering decibels. The frenzy of Jurassic Park merchandising is aimed at young children, yet the movie carries a PG-13 rating, warning parents to think carefully before they take pre-teenagers to it.

The National Coalition on Television Violence, a watchdog group, has described it as 'hypocritical and greedy' to target young children with product tie-ins. Universal, the film's maker, has countered by distributing audience surveys showing that only 2 per cent of the weekend audiences were aged under nine, and 17 per cent were nine to 14.

Initial audience reaction suggests the film is more scary than violent, and is only likely to upset very young children or those inclined to nightmares. But there are gory scenes. These include a man being eaten alive by a dinosaur, the appearance of a severed human limb, and a goat being ripped to pieces.

Meanwhile Hollywood's own carnivores are sharpening their talons at the prospect of sequels, spin-offs and millions of box-office bucks. Dinosaur-related film projects abound, including T Rex (cop partnered by tyrannosaurus), Carnosaur (dino-obsessive scientist), and a Spielberg film about a family of time-travelling dinosaurs.