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'Jurassic' Redux

NEW YORK (Variety) - Dinosaurs will once again roam the earth when the third installment of "Jurassic Park" starts production, possibly as soon as early 2000.

Universal and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment have set "Jumanji" director Joe Johnston to direct "Jurassic Park 3," based on a story hatched by Spielberg.

Plot details are being kept secret, but expect a larger concentration of the ferocious dinos. Craig Rosenberg is writing in close collaboration with Johnston.

In the new talent configuration, Michael Crichton, who wrote the novels on which "Jurassic Park" and its sequel "The Lost World" were based, will likely get a producing credit but will have a passive involvement.

When Spielberg last year expressed a desire to continue the dino-franchise, he expected to be at the helm for the third time. But he will be busy directing Tom Cruise and possibly Matt Damon in the Fox-DreamWorks co-production "Minority Report," which is expected to begin production Oct. 11.

Johnston is coming off the critically acclaimed, but modest grosser, "October Sky." With "Jurassic Park 3," he is back in what many consider his forte -- big, special-effects driven pictures such as "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "The Pagemaster" and "The Rocketeer."

Rosenberg is a newcomer to the dinosaur genre. His writing credits include "Hotel de Love" (which he also directed), "Eliot Loves Gabriella" and "She."

The dinosaur franchise has been Universal's biggest asset, earning more than $1.5 billion in combined worldwide box office revenue and translating into strong theme park, merchandising, TV, music, video and publishing outlets. The 1993 original grossed a whopping $913 million globally, while the 1997 sequel pulled in more than $600 million. Universal and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment have signed Joe Johnston (Jumanji (1995), October Sky (1999)) to direct Jurassic Park 3 (2000), with production scheduled to start as soon as early next year, Daily Variety reported today (Thursday). It will be the first of the dinosaur series that will not be helmed by Spielberg himself, who reportedly is committed to directing the Fox-DreamWorks co-production Minority Report (2000) with Tom Cruise next year.

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