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Go back to the summer of 1981 and the box office crash. A variety of factors were to blame for the downturn, including rising movie ticket prices and production costs (sound familiar?). But the summer season ended on a high note after that Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark rode to the rescue.
Raiders of the Lost Ark, directed by Steven Spielberg from a story and idea by George Lucas, provided actor Harrison Ford with his own franchise that included two more films throughout the 1980s. The trio successfully relaunched the action-adventure series with 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, which grossed nearly $800 million at the worldwide box office. But that was another time and another place.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny — the fifth and final installment in the legendary series — opened to a whopping $60.4 million at the domestic box office over the weekend of June 30 to July 2. Many films would be happy with such a sum; one that costs a whopping $295 million to produce before marketing isn’t one of them.
Under, The Hollywood Reporter ranks each of the five Indy films by opening weekends at the domestic box office, when adjusted for inflation, from highest to lowest. (Surprises may be in store.)
1. The realm of the crystal skull (2008)
Indy fans turned out in force to welcome their swashbuckling hero to the big screen after a 19-year hiatus. The Crystal Skull opened to a whopping $152 million in North America over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, including $100.1 million for the weekend proper. That works out to $146.9 million when adjusted for inflation, according to handy calculations provided by Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian. Crystal Skull received decidedly mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike, but was a box office win en route to racking up more than $790 million at the worldwide box office for Lucasfilm and Paramount, unadjusted. It was film no. 2 of the year nationally behind The dark Knight after beating the likes of Quantum of comfort, Oh mama! AND Iron man. In other words, Disney’s decision to keep the franchise alive after buying Lucasfilm in 2012 and pursuing a fifth installment is no shocker.
Inflation-adjusted domestic opening: $146.9 million
2. The temple of evil (1984)
Temple of Destiny it debuted to $33.9 million domestically, or $106.4 million when adjusted for inflation, according to Dergarabedian. Temple of Destiny went on to earn $331 million globally, including $179.9 million in North America (unadjusted). For the year, however, he was beaten by Beverly Hills Policeman AND ghost Buster. The lasting legacy of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in box office terms it’s probably the PG-13 rating. Spielberg asked the Motion Picture Association to create a new rating category between “G” and “R” after parents complained that some scenes in the film were too dark (they made similar complaints about Spielberg’s executive producer Gremlins, which opened around the same time). Spielberg’s pleas were heard by the MPA, with PG-13 quickly becoming the benchmark rating for Hollywood studios looking to appeal to the largest group of people, whether families or adults looking for action.
Inflation-adjusted domestic opening: $106.4 million
3. The Last Crusade (1989)
The Last Crusade broke Memorial Day records in North America with four-day earnings of $37 million. That included $29.4 million for the three days, or $77.5 million when adjusted. The threequel was the top-grossing film of 1989 at the global box office with an unadjusted total of $474.2 million, beating Batman. But in North America, Batman he prevailed (he cannot win them all).
Inflation-adjusted domestic opening: $77.5 million
4. The Quadrant of Destiny (2023)
Has Indiana Jones’ luck finally run out? The filmmakers may have wondered the same thing when The Quadrant of Destiny opened at $60.4 million the weekend of June-July 30, a less than auspicious start to a $295 million tentpole (looking forward, Crystal Skull likewise went over budget, but its price tag was $185 million). Quadrant of Destiny it fared even worse overseas, opening to $70 million. The film was plagued by numerous delays, crowned by Spielberg’s decision to step aside and entrust the franchise to another director, in this case James Mangold. The news was revealed in February 2020 just before the COVID-19 lockdown. In the years since, Indy fans have aged. Those who were 12 when the first film came out are now 54; those who were 24 are now 66 (you get the idea). Yet in the post-pandemic era, older adults have become even more choosy in terms of what they will watch in theaters. On the opening weekend, the largest segment of Dial of Destiny’s audience, or 23 percent, were 55 years of age and older. Normally this demo might only make up 5 percent. Lucasfilm and Disney hope so Quadrant of Destiny will have legs, particularly among families. It could prove to be a difficult assignment, considering that of Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, part one opens July 12, followed a week later by Barbie AND Oppenheimer (all three address the older adults in the same way). If not, the fifth and last Indiana Jones the film could quickly become a box office artifact.
Domestic Opening: $60.4 million
5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The film opened to $8.3 million from 1,068 theaters on the weekend of June 12-14 (emphasis on location count; back then, movies were still releasing relatively slowly). When adjusting for inflation, Raiders of the Lost Ark it started with $31.5 million domestically, Dergarabedian says. The film was an overnight sensation, racking up over $212 million in its original run at the North American box office and $248.2 million including new releases. When adjusted for inflation, this translates to at least a best franchise $940 million. Globally, Raiders of the Lost Ark was the biggest film of 1981 with $354 million in ticket sales worldwide, beating On the golden pond AND Superman II. If ever a movie had legs, it did Raiders of the Lost Arkwhich dropped to No. 2 in its second outing when the Superman open continuation. Not to worry – Spielberg’s picture dropped just a scant 8% in its second weekend before moving up the rankings to No. 1 in its sixth weekend. all said, Raiders it spent 42 weeks in the top 10. This is how a Hollywood franchise is born.
Inflation-adjusted domestic opening: $31.5 million