Director James Cameron’s megabudget film “Titanic” will sail past the long summer season and open instead on the weekend before Christmas, as the costliest movie of all time has proved too technically demanding to complete on time.
By shifting the release date from July 2 to Dec. 19, sources at the two studios bringing the story of the doomed oceanliner to the big screen said Cameron simply needed more time to finish such things as the optical effects.
For weeks, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox have agonized over whether Cameron could deliver a finished print in time for the Fourth of July holiday it had staked out months ago. The film has already cost well over $200 million; by December, that figure could rise to $285 million, sources say. The interest charge alone for the additional six months could be more than $10 million.
Paramount put up $60 million and has the domestic distribution rights, while Fox is shouldering the rest of the staggering bill and has been given the foreign markets.
“While my initial instinct was to stick with the summer as this project evolved,” Cameron said in a statement released by Paramount, “I think we all became more and more confident that ‘Titanic’ did not necessarily need the hysteria of the summer season to be a box office success. And although it was not the deciding factor, I am personally looking forward to being able to screen my film in its finished form several months in advance of its release date, a luxury my past post-production schedules have never afforded me.”
The December release date has to be troubling for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox because the studio has several big productions on tap for the end of the year: the animated “Anastasia” on Nov. 21, the sci-fi film sequel “Alien Resurrection” on Nov. 26, “Home Alone III” on Dec. 19 and “Great Expectations” on Dec. 31.
Fox likely will push “Great Expectations,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke, into 1998, since it would go after a similar audience to “Titanic.”
Fox also faces a tough decision on whether it could release “Titanic” in foreign markets on the same date as the movie opens here.
Sources said that Cameron offered to deliver the picture for an August U.S. opening, but that Fox officials took Cameron’s side and fought with Paramount officials to allow him to make the movie he really wanted.
“I think what this is about is there’s not enough time for him to finish the movie the way he wants to see the movie on the screen,” said a Fox executive close to the picture.
“When you’re making a movie like this, which hopefully will be of epic proportions, you can’t take away the time needed to finish the movie,” the source added. “He was going to deliver it in the summer. Everybody at Fox said, ‘We’ve gone this far, let him have the movie he wants to deliver.’ If there’s more expense, although you don’t like paying it, you want the movie to be put on the screen the way it should be.”