In an early scene during the new film "Jurassic World," a control room operator at the titular theme park gets a dressing down from Bryce Dallas Howard's prickly protagonist for wearing a vintage Jurassic Park T-shirt.
The control room employee concedes his fashion choice is in bad taste. However, he can't help but wax poetic about the original Jurassic Park, and bemoan the revenue-focused corporate behemoth that its successor theme park, Jurassic World, has become. The scene feels like a wink to 30-something viewers—many of whom are sure to turn out to see the fourth installment of the "Jurassic Park" series as it hits theaters this weekend.
"Jurassic World" is just one of a handful of cinematic touchstones returning to theaters after a prolonged absence. These movies stand to reap a nostalgia bonus at the box office, as millennials and Generation X members indulge in a bit of wistful movie-going—some with their own kids in tow.
Nostalgia including familiar characters can be a big draw for some classic franchises, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. But unlike casting and budgets, studios obviously can't control the passing of time.
"How long do you need for something to become nostalgic?" Dergarabedian said. "It's not five years. It might take 20 years. I think you're talking maybe a minimum of 15 years."
It has been more than two decades since Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs to life in the original "Jurassic Park," and the film still holds a spot among the top 20 U.S. box office earners. (It is one of three movies released before 2003 that remain on that list, along with "Titanic" and "Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace.")