Jim Cameron’s “Titanic,” whose mega-budget is growing day by day, has been moved completely out of July. Speculation is that it will be released sometime in the fourth quarter as previously reported (Daily Variety, April 15).

One source close to the production told Daily Variety in April that the film “would be released in the fall, it’s just a matter of when.” Another source said that November or the Christmas holiday would be likely as Cameron wanted the film up for Oscar consideration (Daily Variety, April 16).

The announcement of the new release date — which will likely be in November or December — could come as early as today.

If the picture is released during the holiday season, sources estimate that the postponement will add another $20 million to the already bloated budget.

Sources say that the cost of the negative (including the Rosarito facility), carrying costs and prints and advertising could push the total budget to an estimated $285 million — which would rival “Cleopatra” to become the most expensive film ever made. The cost of “Cleopatra,” put at $44 million in 1963, is about $300 million in adjusted dollars.

The irony is that Cameron — who has widely publicized he has given up his upfront fees on the project — is still getting paid through his ownership stake in Digital Domain, the special effects house doing the work on “Titanic.” That company had been working on an escalated work schedule to accommodate a summer release costing 20th Century Fox more and more in overages. The long-term strategy for Digitial Domain is to go public.

20th Century Fox is overseeing the production and has foreign distribution; Paramount, which capped its commitment at $65 million, is distributing domestically. Fox was counting on foreign distribution of the picture for its fall schedule. Domestically, Fox has two important films for the fall — “Alien Resurrection” and the animated “Anastasia” — scheduled for November so “Titanic” would be butting heads with those two films.

‘”Titanic” has also put tremendous pressure on top executives at Fox — in particular Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman and chief executive officer Bill Mechanic — whose responsibility it is to oversee the production. By making such a deal, Paramount also took domestic release on a movie that it could not control.

The Titanic situation escalated to the point that News Corp.’s chairman Rupert Murdoch and Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone have been drawn into the fray.

When asked May 8 about release plans for the film, Redstone said, “Someday we will have ‘Titanic.’ I can’t tell you the date because the production is in the control of 20th Century Fox.” Contractually, Fox controls the production but Par determines the release date.

The move out of July was confirmed by Paramount, which until now has been unwilling to acknowledge to the press that it had even moved the film from its original July 2 date. Exhibitors had been alerted, however, that the film would be moved from July 2 to possibly July 25 or Aug. 1 (Daily Variety, May 8).

The lack of a release date for the film has caused problems throughout the industry — for the exhibitors across the nation who are booking screens, and for every studio trying to get the best release dates and screens for their films while avoiding “Titanic.”

All eyes are now on the Cameron/Fox overall deal and how “Titanic” might affect the relationship between the two. The original deal was 12 films over five years, however, that had been renegotiated. Still, the two are committed to several more films under the current arrangement.

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