Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reel Facts & Opinions: All Hail James Cameron

FACT: Just over a week ago, Reel Speak commented on the Box Office take for James Cameron’s re-issue of TITANIC in (goddamn) 3D, which took in just $17 million; just short of the cost to convert the 15-year old film to the third dimension. While not quite a disaster or a shipwreck of a situation, it still led to speculation of the future of older films being re-released in theatres.

Leave it to Cameron to wind up on top again and prove that he knows what he’s doing. The decision to re-release the film on the 100th anniversary of the sinking (as opposed to re-releasing it on the film’s 15 year anniversary in December) paid off. TITANIC 3D pulled in a total of $100 million this past weekend; roughly $11 million domestically and an impressive $88 million in 69 overseas markets. The new haul has pushed TITANIC’s total gross to $2.03 billion worldwide.

OPINION: What does all that mean...

1. Cameron rules the Box Office.

Only one other film has topped that $2 billion mark, and it’s also one of Cameron’s; his 2009 sci-fi epic AVATAR earned $2.8 billion; surpassing TITANIC’s all-time domestic numbers. Now, it’s easy to point the finger at overpriced ticket sales for AVATAR’s mega-numbers, but it would be dismissive to do so. Keep in mind TITANIC sat at the top of the list for 12 years before AVATAR came along. If ticket prices are such a factor, then why did it take so long? It’s not easy for just any old film to make those hundreds of millions leading to billions.

2. If it’s not easy, then why is Cameron able to do it nearly every time he makes a film?

The simple answer: Simplicity. Cameron has a fantastic imagination for his films, so in order to ground the movie, he makes the stories simple. TITANIC was essentially Romeo & Juliet in the setting of one of the largest disasters in history. AVATAR was essentially a re-telling of A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970) in the setting of a fantastic world and futuristic universe that doesn’t exist. Simple stories, yet important ones that this world needs to see. There is also the matter of Cameron’s imagination being too large for the existing world. AVATAR was conceived just a few years after TITANIC, but he had to wait nearly ten years for the tech to catch up to his vision. And in the early 1990’s, he had to invent new underwater photography equipment before beginning filming on TITANIC; two-and-a-half miles underneath the North Atlantic Ocean. That’s the type of stuff that captures people’s imaginations and guarantees a movie-ticket purchase.

3. What does all this mean for the future of re-issues?

The impressive haul of TITANIC 3D can be attributed to the film’s overall popularity (see above #2), and to the world’s continuing, romantic fascination with Titanic; which was at an all-time high during this past weekend’s 100th anniversary. It is difficult to believe that any other film, re-issued in 3D near a significant anniversary, would fare as well. Would a re-issue of GONE WITH THE WIND in 3D on the anniversary of the end of the Civil War (whenever that is) pull in $100 million? It’s doubtful.

Critics of TITANIC in 1997 called the film “lightning in a bottle”; it seems James Cameron has now captured that lightning three times. Let’s just call him Zeus.

What say you?

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