It may drive his crews crazy, but the fact that James Cameron is an infamous perfectionist pays off nicely in the conversion of his Oscar-winning 1997 blockbuster “Titanic” into 3-D.
The filmmaker did more than test the technology-roiled waters with “Avatar” in 2009, when he rewrote the navigation chart with a rich dimensionality that was groundbreaking. But what happens when the director re-imagines the past with the aid of the new tools?
All good things.
“Titanic” was gorgeous when it landed 15 years ago, but watching it set sail in 3-D is breathtaking. Just as satisfying as the brilliant new colors and a ship that seems at times suspended in the air is watching Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet falling in love again -- passion and heartbreak are better in 3-D too.
The technology, and the choices Cameron and his team make on when and where to employ it, allows certain moments to completely overtake the senses. The iconic shot of the windblown young lovers on the prow of the ship feels close enough to touch.
"Titanic 3D" was an instant box-office hit when it opened in China this week, but audiences there didn't get to see one of the movie's most famous scenes -- Kate Winslet reclining nude as Leonardo DiCaprio paints her portrait.
China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television censored the scene in the new, 3-D version of the film, just as it did in the movie's first theatrical run there in 1998. But because many Chinese fans initially saw pirated versions of "Titanic," many were familiar with the scene and chagrined by the omission.
"I've been waiting almost 15 years, and not for the 3-D icebergs," said one disappointed moviegoer in a widely circulated microblog post quoted by China Daily.
Pleasing Chinese audiences is increasingly important for movie studios, as the country has become one of the leading foreign markets for Hollywood films.
When "Titanic" was released in China 14 years ago, the movie played in only 180 theaters. This week, "Titanic 3D" was screened in 3,500 locations in the country.
On its opening day Tuesday in China, "Titanic 3D" sold $11.6 million worth of tickets, more than a quarter of the $44 million the original grossed in China during its entire theatrical run.
It's been three weeks since "The Hunger Games" hit theaters, but American moviegoers have yet to tire of the Suzanne Collins adaptation.
For the third consecutive weekend, the fantasy epic topped the box office, raking in an additional $33.5 million. That means the film has now surpassed the $300-million milestone in the U.S. and Canada alone.
The success of "The Hunger Games" negatively impacted "American Reunion" and "Titanic 3-D," which debuted over the weekend. The fourth installment in the raunchy comedy franchise, "Reunion" sold only about $21 million in tickets, while the 3-D version of James Cameron's classic took in a so-so $17 million.
So are audiences totally over '90s reboots? Check out this week's box office video report for more.
Sometime in the late 2020s, a canny producer will try to revive "The Hunger Games." He will graft on the technology of the moment (a smell-enhancing app for your next-generation Google Glasses, natch) and find a new narrative thread to bring back the duo of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, now nearing 40 and hankering for their fifth collective Oscar.
Overcome with goodwill about the franchise of their formative years, a handful of thirtysomething moviegoers will rush out to see the "Hunger Games" reboot. But the teenagers that comprise the bulk of the filmgoing audience will be baffled by a franchise that reminds them of their parents and instead flock to a newer phenomenon (a superhero horror comedy starring the prepubescent son of Daniel Radcliffe and Rosie Coker, and costarring Justin Bieber, somehow still pre-pubescent in 2029).
OK, so that's as hard to imagine as, say, Tiger winning another major. Still "Hunger Games" did this weekend what, given the cyclical ways of pop culture, others may well one day do to it. In its third weekend of release, the Jennifer Lawrence film crushed not one but two '90s revivals,"Titanic" and "American Pie." Nirvana, indeed.
Few wallets were hurt in the making of "Titanic 3-D"; conversion costs for the reissue ran about $18 mil and were shouldered by two studios. But with barely $17 million in premium ticket prices collected over the three-day weekend, you wouldn't exactly call the James Cameron re-release popular. especially given how much love we had for it the first time around. (In contrast, a 3-D revival of "Beauty and the Beast," which upon initial release made only a fraction of "Titanic's" original $600 million, actually opened to higher numbers.)
James Cameron junkies get their fix this weekend with the release of “Titanic 3-D.” But how long will moviegoers have to wait for something new from the master of the interplanetary and the blue-tailed?
When it initially announced "Avatar 2" a little over a year ago, studio Fox was hopeful for a 2014 release. But Jon Landau, Cameron's producing partner and sometime interview-giver-in-chief, created a small stir this week when he told the website Empire that the sequel, which is expected to take place largely underwater, may not be ready until 2015.
"We're not naming dates, but I think 2014 will be a tough date for us to make. It's about getting it right," said Landau, noting that effects work has begun on the film. (Landau added that "movies make release dates; release dates don't make movies," a position that only a studio filmmaker named James Cameron has the luxury of taking.)
Landau's comments sounded alarm bells throughout the blogosphere, though the truth is that it's more optimistic than the date range the producer offered in his last round of interviews, when he intimated it could be 2016 before the film is ready.
Cameron isn’t known for speed at this stage of his career. Though he made four movies between 1989 and 1997, it took him 12 years to get his next movie completed, with "Avatar" not hitting theaters until 2009.
Cameron's meticulous work style is amplified by his clout — studios wouldn’t generally tolerate years of waiting from, well, nearly any other filmmaker. It helps to have the two highest-grossing movies of all time ("Avatar" and "Titanic").
Add to these factors the new film’s underwater setting and all the logistics that implies, and don't be surprised if 2016 is where we end up. A James Cameron release is often just around the corner, except not quite.
The salty scent of ocean air, the frigid winds of the North Atlantic, the jarring bump of a 46,000-ton ship hitting an iceberg — for international audiences who wish to add yet another dimension to the 3-D re-release of James Cameron's “Titanic,” there is “Titanic 4DX.”
A South Korean company called CJ 4DPlex Co. has created a theme park ride-like experience to accompany screenings of “Titanic 3D” in 26 theaters in South Korea, Mexico, China and Thailand starting Thursday.
4DX places theater audiences inside a film’s environment using motion, wind, fog, lighting and scent-based special effects. Launched in 2009, 4DX is also being applied to such recent movies as “The Hunger Games” and “John Carter” and the upcoming “The Avengers.” (It’s unclear what the sinking Titanic smells like, but we bet there will be liberal use of the “short bursts of sharp air” and “face water” features — not to mention the pitch and roll seats.)
Cameron and his studio partners spent 60 weeks and $18 million to make a 3-D version of “Titanic,” the 1997 blockbuster about a young couple, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), who fall in love aboard the doomed luxury liner. Screenings of “Titanic 3D” in the U.S., where it opened Tuesday night, will not include 4DX’s extrasensory enhancements.
But CJ 4DPlex has opened an office in Hollywood and plans to expand to U.S. theaters, ultimately reaching more than 800 auditoriums worldwide by 2016, according to a news release issued by the company.
“We work with the world’s leading studios and filmmakers to bring movie magic alive for audiences,” CJ 4DPlex Chief Executive Ho Seung Lee said in the release. “Presenting ‘Titanic,’ one of the greatest films ever made, in 4DX is a great honor, and we are excited to usher audiences onboard to meet Jack and Rose.”
The Hollywood gods spoke. And they did not approve of "Clash of the Titans."
Even though 2010's sword and sandals was a global blockbuster -- its nearly $500 million worldwide haul made it the year's 11th highest-grossing release -- its industry critics made a lot more noise than the ticket buyers. The focus of their ire? The hasty "Clash of the Titans" 3-D conversion, undertaken at the last minute to take advantage of higher 3-D ticket prices.
While James Cameron is spending more than a year turning his 1997 smash "Titanic" into a 3-D presentation for its April 4 re-release, the makers of "Clash of the Titans" spent a mere six weeks hurriedly converting the mythological spectacle into 3-D.
DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg said the film's makeover "snookered" ticket buyers, while "Avatar" creator Cameron said of the conversion, "There was no artistry to it whatsoever."
Arriving on Friday, the "Clash of the Titans" sequel, called "Wrath of the Titans," attempts to atone for the first film's shortcomings.
Although the new, $150-million "Titans" film also was converted from 2-D into 3-D, any number of shots and visual effects sequences were designed from the very beginning for stereoscopic presentation. What's more, the filmmakers spent a year on the 3-D upgrade, working hard to ensure that the conversion was done as well as possible.
Even if "Wrath of the Titans," which stars "Avatar's" Sam Worthington, silences its 3-D critics, it will have a hard time making a big splash at the box office, as it must fend off "The Hunger Games" juggernaut. The reviews for the film have been better than they were for "Clash of the Titans," but the "Wrath" notices are still mixed to negative.
In this week's Word of Mouth column, John Horn looks at the sequel's prospects, and previews his report in this video: