The dinosaurs of “The Lost World” carried Steven Spielberg to the top of Forbes magazine’s list of the 40 best-paid entertainers - and lifted the story’s author, Michael Crichton, to No. 4, the highest any writer has reached.
Spielberg earned $313 million in 1996-97 for directing and producing the sequel to “Jurassic Park” and from related merchandise.
Crichton, who wrote the book “The Lost World,” also benefited from the film. His $102 million take was more than books alone could ever bring.
Right behind Spielberg was another special-effects movie maven, George Lucas, who re-released his “Star Wars” trilogy this year and raked in $241 million.
Oprah Winfrey, last year’s No. 1, finished third with $201 million. Last year, she needed a mere $171 million to top the list.
Winfrey and Spielberg had been trading first and second place since 1993. Spielberg last was No. 1 in 1995.
The rankings, included in the magazine’s Sept. 22 issue, combine entertainers’ two-year estimated gross earnings in an attempt to compile a more accurate assessment of overall income.
The Beatles came in at fifth, even though they haven’t recorded in more than a quarter century, and Jerry Seinfeld was sixth with $94 million.
Some of the entertainers who fell off the Top 40 this year were Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, David Letterman, Luciano Pavarotti and Denzel Washington.
They helped make way for firsttimers, including comedian-tool man Tim Allen (No. 13), winner of a fat contract to stay with ABC and “Home Improvement”; singer Celine Dion (No. 15), who sold 30 million records in two years; and the movie directing-producing team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (No. 24), responsible for “Apollo 13,” “Liar, Liar” and “Ransom.”
Other newcomers were pop group Spice Girls (No. 32); Michael Flatley (No. 25), the Irish-step-dancing star of the movie “Lord of the Dance”; and the writer-producers of TV’s “Friends” - Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane (No. 39).