King of the world? Not even close. Despite "Titanic" being one of the highest grossing movies of all time, James Cameron's much-hyped 3D rerelease of the movie failed to repeat its box office glory over the weekend.
The 3D conversion of the 1997 big boat movie took in an estimated $17.4 million in North America and another $35.5 million abroad, but could not topple box office juggernaut "The Hunger Games," which added another $33.5 million to its $300 million total. Cameron's "Titanic 3D" was beat out even by '90s throwback "American Reunion," which brought in $21.5 million in ticket receipts at the North American box office.
Cameron, who recently travelled to the deepest point on the ocean in a submersible vehicle he helped design (talk about a publicity stunt!), probably isn't too broken up about the relatively lackluster showing. The 3D conversion of the film reportedly cost around $18 million to produce, so with a $50 million-plus take, it's already well in the black.
There's also the matter of the film's first record-breaking theatrical run: "Titanic" grossed a ridiculous $1.9 billion in global box office during its original release. Cameron may not have been the box office king this weekend, but it's still very likely that, right now, the Canadian filmmaker is laughing in a money-filled submarine somewhere.
But what does it say about 3D conversions when one of the top-grossing films of all time can't duplicate its success during a rerelease?
George Lucas's 3D conversion and rerelease of "Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace" also stumbled at the box office when it was released in February. The 3D version of the 1999 prequel made just $25 million in its opening weekend, coming in a distant fourth place to the romantic drama "The Vow," and has since topped out at just under $44 million. That's still a respectable box office tally by any standard, but it's barely double what the 3D conversion likely cost Lucasfilm to produce. Most of that money will likely go toward producing the 3D version of "Attack of the Clones." In any event, Lucas is much like Cameron — laughing all the way to the bank (and/or submarine).
Live-action 3D rereleases have generally not performed as well as their animated counterparts in recent years. Disney's conversions of the animated classics "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast" fared extremely well at the box office, coming in first and second respectively during their respective rereleases. "The Lion King" has pulled in close to $100 million since it was rereleased late last year, while "Beauty and the Beast" has pulled in a slightly more modest $50 million since its release a few months ago.
It's unknown how much of this success can be attributed to parents taking their kids to the movies, or the increasing rarity of seeing animated Disney films on the big screen (thanks a lot, Disney vault!). Regardless, the message to studios and directors is clear: If your live-action movie has already made billions of dollars, a 3D rerelease might be beating a dead horse.
On the other hand, if your animated film performed well at the box office during its original release, but hasn't been seen on the big screen in nearly 20 years, maybe a 3D conversion is worth your while.
Disney is set to test this theory with upcoming 3D conversions of the Pixar films "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters Inc.," as well as the beloved, traditionally animated "The Little Mermaid." Live-action filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson will test the 3D conversion waters when they rerelease 3D versions of "Jurassic Park" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy over the next few years.
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