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'Jurassic' Symphony: The 1993 Dinosaur Blockbuster Gets an Orchestral Makeover
Jurassic Park is the latest blockbuster to get the orchestral-concert treatment in what has become a growing form of entertainment: watching a movie while listening to a live performance of its score.
The 1993 Steven Spielberg film, with music composed by John Williams, joins other offerings by Film Concerts Live -- a co-venture between IMG Artists and the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency -- including the Williams-scored Home Alone, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, as well as Back to the Future (Alan Silvestri) and Star Trek (Michael Giacchino).
“Jurassic Park is one of John’s most recognized, beloved scores,” says FCL producer Jamie Richardson. “The dinosaurs are created through special effects, but the reason they live and breathe is John’s music.” The film debuts this fall with an unannounced symphony.
When considering a title, FCL’s first step is to consult with the filmmaker and the composer, since the presentation often involves adding new music leading into and out of the intermission. Williams will oversee that process for Jurassic Park. FCL then licenses the film from the appropriate studio and begins shopping the title to symphonies. FCL will make a push for Jurassic Park at Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ (APAP) New York convention, which starts Jan. 15.
Since the first live performance of a score to picture in 1987 when the Andre Previn-conducted Los Angeles Philharmonic played Prokofiev’s music to 1938 classic Alexander Nevsky, business has grown for the sector, with companies like Disney, CineConcerts and Symphonic Cinema getting involved. But it wasn’t until within the last several years, as financially strapped orchestras looked for a way to increase revenues, that the concept has begun to soar. For FCL, concerts spiked from 18 in 2014 to 98 a year later. “I know of no orchestra that isn’t doing this now,” says FCL producer Steve Linder. “They understand that it’s being done at a very high artistic level.”
And it’s also bringing in new audiences: Symphonies tell FCL that up to 75 percent of the audience has never seen a live orchestra before. And they are often coming in droves. This past September, the LA Phil filled the 17,500-seat Hollywood Bowl for three performances of E.T. Two nights of Back to the Future, held Oct. 15 and 16, at New York’s Radio City Music Hall featuring the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, grossed $411,273, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Orchestras also continue to perform popular movie theme nights featuring the music from several films. CineConcerts, which will premiere Breakfast At Tiffany’s as a live-to-picture title in 2016, has joined with CBS Consumer Products and Paramount Pictures to take Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage to more than 100 North American performing arts halls in North America this year. The experience features orchestras playing music to picture from Star Trek’s many television and film franchises spanning five decades.
FCL wouldn’t reveal the cost of licensing a film and score for an orchestral concert, but compared it to the fee of an A-list guest soloist. A bonus: It comes with a tech team to run the movie and marketing support. “We’ve found a financial range that seems to work well,” says Linder. “We want orchestras to survive.”
A portion of this story originally appeared in the Jan. 23 issue of Billboard.