Will ‘Titanic’ sink at box office?

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In 1997, I was a high school student when James Cameron’s blockbuster Titanic was released. As I was in an all-girls school, Leomania was off the charts. For a good six months, everyone was talking about how good the film was and how hot Leonardo DiCaprio looked. Now, a good 15 years later, Titanic is coming back onto our screens, supposedly better than ever (in other words, it is being re-released in 3D), to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the disaster.

I am doubtful about the commercial success of the Titanic the second time round. It has to contend with the quality of 3D effects in current releases and aside from that, there is nothing else to really entice one who fell in love with the film to go back and watch it. Except for nostalgia. Times of big budget, huge scale films have gone; they have been replaced by 3D and green screen.

So, upon it’s impending release, do we really want to go back to Titanic?

When Titanic was released, it was considered a significant achievement in film – not only due to its massive $200 million budget (making it the most expensive film at that time), but also due to the fact that a film on such a huge scale had not been made since the 1960s. This is when Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was considered the height of film making extravagance.

The epic love story between wandering artist Jack Dawson (DiCaprio) and rich socialite Rose Bukater (Kate Winslet) captivated the hearts of millions. Hordes of women and teenage girls stormed cinemas for a piece of Mr. DiCaprio in a role of a selfless, romantic hero. Along with the success of William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrman, it propelled him to a poster boy of insane proportions.

But now, DiCaprio has established himself as a major player in Hollywood and Cameron has made Avatar; a film that has surpassed Titanic in box office takings and critical acclaim. The main concern with it’s re-release is that there are no additional extras to look out for – no new or extended scenes and it’s doubtful that the ending is going to change…

Given that 3D conversion on existing 2D films is not always up to scratch, who’s to say that revisiting Titanic in cinemas is going to be better than watching the DVD on a big TV? The only people who can really enjoy the 3D release are those who have not seen Titanic before.
Or those who have not even heard of it -because then, the film will be more of a surprise.


  1. Bill Mesce says

    Well, I suppose it’s what one considers significant. TITANIC — like AVATAR — was a huge technical accomplishment. They’re both demonstrations of movie-making muscle at it’s strongest. And, of course, they’re both all-time king-of-the-world-sized box office hits, no denying. In those respects, these are certainly landmark films.
    The arguable issue with some reviewers on both films was that the storytelling was not as ambitious or limit-pushing as the physical filmmaking. I remember one reviewer saying something about TITANIC to the effect that the majesty of the production gave the story the impression of having more weight than it really did. And on AVATAR, I was actually interviewed for a story on how similar AVATAR’s story was to some lesser-known sci fi pieces including an episode of THE OUTER LIMITS.
    It’s not a consensus opinion by any means, but there is a fair-sized voice out there that says TITANIC and AVATAR are commercial moviemaking at its biggest — but not neccesarily at its best.
    But then I think THE LOST MISSILE is a movie worth seeing and I doubt you’ll find a lot of support for that view.
    As an acquaintance of mine once said, everybody likes something different; that’s why they make vanilla AND chocolate.

    1. Staindslaved says

      Why am I not surprised that Bill eloquently described both the note worthy flaws of Titanic and Avatar while simultaneously eluding to their minimal effect. As a strong supporter of both films I’m glad to read constructive criticism like this instead of the typical internet jargon.

      1. Bill Mesce says

        Why thank you, Staindslaved, and might I return the compliment?

  2. Bill Mesce says

    Reading some recent interviews with James Cameron concerning the re-release, I think there’s a number of factors that come into play besides nostalgia. First of all, Cameron, being notorious for pushing film technology beyond accepted limits, has spared no expense (actually, he’s spared none of 20th Century Fox’s money) in the 3-D conversion. It may not look as good as shot-for-3-D, but I’m guessing it’ll be better than the typical retro conversion.
    But Cameron pointed out something I hadn’t thought of: that there is a generation of viewers who’ve never seen TITANIC on the big screen. Years ago, these kinds of re-releases of major epics were a routine part of the distribution cycle, even for movies that had already appeared on TV for the same reason Cameron cited. I remember sitting in a packed house back in the 80s, I think it was, to see the restored SPARTACUS.
    I’m not saying it’s a slam-dunk, but I think the dynamic may be more nuanced.
    I always consider that I hated the original, that I never understood how it was such a HUGE success, so in light of that I feel anything’s possible.
    Some footnotes. I had the advantage of being considerably older than you in 1997. There was not a universal consensus that the film was a “significant achievement.” It was huge, certainly, but there were dissenting critics who thought the movie was simply an over-produced teen romance. Cameron got into a public feud with, I believe, the LA Times’ Charles Champlin because Champlin had the temerity to suggest the movie wasn’t as good as Cameron thought it was. Cameron took out a full-page ad in the LA Times to explain why Champlin was “wrong.”
    And the Burton/Taylor CLEOPATRA was 1962. Adjusted for inflation, I think it might still be the most expensive movie ever made, or at least is still a top contender.
    For sure, it will be interesting to see if lightning strikes twice with this monster.

    1. Katie W says

      Thanks for spotting the typo – I have edited it :)

      You mention that the film was not really considered significant. For a generation, Titanic is considered an example on how ambitious a film can be; it’s like Avatar for the 80’s generation.

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