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article imageOp-Ed: Titanic anniversary movie 3D rerelease — Start of a new trend?

By Val Williamson     Apr 10, 2012 in Entertainment
James Cameron's blockbuster Titanic movie has been digitally remastered and rereleased in 3-D to coincide with the centenary of the historic tragedy. Should other old movies get the digital makeover and 3-D revival?
Following the success of Cameron's later 3-D blockbuster, Avatar, in 2009, the first movie to supersede Titanic as highest grossing, the Hollywood industry apparently immersed itself in digital 3-D productions which were hailed as the saviours of an ailing industry.
In spite of this optimism and the no doubt record-breaking investment it attracted, movie releases in 2011 were largely remakes, sequels, and prequels, offering the public a disappointing lack of originality in storytelling. This led 2011 to be a mediocre year at the United States box office, as Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg pointed out.
Cameron's own role in the technical advancement of 3-D filming techniques, known as stereography, deserves recognition, as does his influence on the development of 3-D exhibition technologies in movie theatres across the globe. Artistically he was insistent on resuming creative control over the Titanic movie's transition from celluloid to digital, from 2-D to 3-D.
The artistic process of re-visualizing TITANIC in three-dimensions was overseen by Cameron himself, along with his long-time producing partner Jon Landau — who both pushed the conversion company Stereo D literally to unprecedented visual breadth. Cameron guided them to use the latest visual tools the Titanic movie website says.
"The 3-D enriches all of TITANIC's most thrilling moments — and its most emotional moments," summarizes Cameron. "More than ever, you feel you're right there going through all the jeopardy that Jack and Rose go through. The 3-D kicks the experience up to another level."
Titanic is a movie about an historical event where the 3-D rerelease has been timed to coincide with the anniversary of that historical event, the centenary of the launch of the Titanic ocean liner. When he made the movie, released in 1997, Cameron was already a specialist on the visuality of the deep and of shipwrecks. He has explored and filmed the actual Titanic wreck on several occasions, and used classic Hollywood realism to bring verisimilitude to the movie. Were it not a well reconstructed historical event, Titanic would still constitute a movie faithful to the disaster genre, enhanced by a powerful love story, thereby appealing to a profitably broad audience.
The relaunch cannily floats on the tide of centenary publicity for the actual event, which has piqued the interest of a new audience, but the stars of this movie remain high profile, and are also a factor in drawing in a new generation. Is this a special case, a one-off suited to special circumstances, or is there a case to be made for reviving some of the great movies of Hollywood's post-classical era?
3D was a novelty in the 1950s. It has taken over half a century to become mainstream.
3D was a novelty in the 1950s. It has taken over half a century to become mainstream.
UK National Archives
Likely candidates to pay back costs on expensive remastering processes would probably be those already successful as blockbusters. A 3-D revamp of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, sharing publicity with its 3-D Hobbit prequels set to screen over the next few years, seems an obvious choice. If that succeeds, might Lucas and Spielbeg be persuaded to revisit their pre-Multiplex creations, such as the Indiana Jones spectaculars, their family-oriented science fantasies, or even Jaws?
Delivering an action adventure romp to a new young audience (and their nostalgic parents) could depend on the willingness of the original creators to revisit past projects. Artistically, the new version must better the old, but the bottom line may be how large a publicity budget would need to be spent to get the audience in place to watch rereleases. Hollywood backers and distributors will support costs of digital remastering if they are sure of recovering these.
3-D is no longer an alternative technology, it is mainstream. Theatres now are widely equipped with stereographic projection technology, and television has also gained 3-D technology. By the time world television transmission is fully digitised in 2015, 3-D home theatres may be commonplace. It seems as if the market for digitally remastered 3-D movies exists. The industry will be watching the Titanic box office returns with that in mind.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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