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Tokyo touting ‘Titanic’

Twentieth Century Fox’s decision to premiere “Titanic,” its mega-budgeted, much-ballyhooed James Cameron project, at the Tokyo Film Festival Nov. 1, has Hollywood insiders scratching their heads.

“Titanic” watchers are wondering why Fox chose Tokyo, when the more prestigious London Film Festival is just a week later.

Execs at Paramount, the film’s domestic distributor, were reportedly fuming at the decision to unveil the film overseas nearly two months before its U.S. debut.

But Par vice chairman Rob Friedman told Daily Variety he didn’t believe the premiere would have any effect on the film’s U.S. run. “Who else besides people who read Variety are even going to know it’s going on over there?”

Friedman acknowledged that the decision was not Paramount’s, however, adding, “The filmmakers and Fox wanted to go to Tokyo. We had discussions with them but ultimately it was their call.”

Friedman said Paramount plans to screen the film for long-lead press prior to the Tokyo date.

Even though Japanese releases often get a huge jump-start from a Tokyo fest preem, many wonder whether buzz generated from the debut can be sustained until its Dec. 20 release in Japan — seven weeks later and a day after it docks in U.S. theaters.

In the past, such films as “Cliffhanger,” “Braveheart” and “Speed” were screened at the festival and went on to do boffo business at the Japanese box office, one of the most lucrative overseas markets for Hollywood fare. Each of these films were screened at the fest before their fall or Christmas releases, but after they had been released domestically.

The decision to debut at the fest may be much ado about nothing, as mavens point out that the film’s potential box office in Japan will rely more on the popularity of Cameron and the film’s star, Leonardo DiCaprio, than a premiere held seven weeks prior. Luckily for Fox, both Cameron and DiCaprio have huge followings in that country and have agreed to show up to tubthump the pic.

Buena Vista Intl. execs were quick to point out that “Air Force One” will actually be the first film screened at the festival. “Air Force One,” which BVI is distributing internationally, screens at 1 p.m., while “Titanic” unspools later that evening.

Dick Sano, VP and general manager of BVI, said Harrison Ford and the film’s director, Wolfgang Peterson have committed to attend the festival and the film’s screening.

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