The waiting game is over. After weeks of speculation, Paramount Pictures announced Tuesday that it will release “Titanic” domestically on Dec. 19.
The move pulls the picture completely out of the summer release schedule, as expected (Daily Variety, April 15). Twentieth Century Fox, which put up the lion’s share of the film’s record-breaking budget, will release the pic internationally virtually simultaneously. Contractually, however, the film cannot be released overseas before it is released domestically.”We felt there was a real opportunity at year end based on what we know about the movie and what we see coming up in the holiday season,” said Par vice chairman of motion pictures Rob Friedman. “It could have been ready at the end of summer, but we decided that there was a better opportunity at the end of the year.”
The picture is still not complete, with work out to four special effects houses. According to Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment president Rae Sanchini, the film will now be completed in August or September.
“It was really a balancing act. So many factors had to be considered once we realized that we were not going to make the July 2 date,” said Sanchini. “The cost of the push certainly, because there was an interest factor. Digital Domain is on the same schedule as if we completed it for a summer release.
“We will work fewer Sundays and at a more rational pace. The push has a minimal production cost, because you can trade off other things,” Sanchini added. “We were working a seven-day week, and there were costs associated with pushing the film on a more accelerated basis.”
She would not reveal what those costs were. Sources, however, said that the negative cost of the film is $200 million and that the carrying costs and overages from the film’s postponement to December are estimated at $20 million.
With $35 million to $40 million added for domestic prints and advertising, the cost to bring the picture to market is substantial. Add to that Fox’s international marketing budget of about $25 to $30 million and the budget continues to rise.
Paramount is capped at $65 million and is shouldering p&a costs for release in the U.S. and Canada. Fox is shouldering overages, interest on the negative costs and international prints and ad costs.
The Rosarito facility which was built for “Titanic” was another $25 to $30 million. The facility is being leased out for other productions and could become an income generator for Fox.
Fox wanted the picture finished for an Aug. 1 release date so it could release the film internationally in the fall. The studio even tried as late as last week to buy Paramount out on the picture. Paramount refused.
Asked if the new date was satisfactory with Cameron, Sanchini said: “This was the date we were pushing for all along when we couldn’t go on the July 2 date.”
The studios still face a marketing challenge on “Titanic” which will be released with a running time of 2:45 to 3 hours. Sanchini said that the length of the film will not change significantly. “That was discussed before it was greenlit. Everyone knew it was going to be around that length.”
By moving the mega-budgeted Jim Cameron pic into December, the movie will not bump heads with other Thanksgiving holiday fare — two of which are important Fox films: the studio’s first foray into feature animation, “Anastasia,” and the sci-fi thriller “Alien Resurrection.”
The picture will bump heads with Fox’s “Home Alone III” and TriStar Pictures’ “The Mask of Zorro,” both of which are skedded for Dec. 19.
Tom Sherak, senior exec VP of 20th Century Fox, said that the studio would not move “Home Alone” from its spot, citing counterprogramming.
Postponement of the film’s domestic debut will not affect the release date in key foreign territories, according to Jim Gianopulos, 20th Century Fox president, international theatrical.
“This was always going to be a major late fall holiday release in Europe and Japan. It only affected a few dates in Latin America and the Far East. There was a lot of debate, but the result is consistent with our original strategy,” said Gianopulos.
Exhibition execs were pleased to have a firm release date.
“In the back of my mind, I thought there was still a shot that it would go in the summer,” said Richie Fay, AMC marketing president. “Now that it’s out of there, it just gives you a little more room to breath with all of the big summer films coming down the line. They’re probably a lot better off going into December.”