Big ship, tiny towns

New prints allow small burgs to see 'Titanic'

Residents of a handful of tiny towns where “Titanic” still hasn’t played will soon have a chance to find out what all the fuss is about.

Despite the disaster pic’s colossal run of 4,200 prints, recent news reports noted that after 14 weeks in release, the big boat has yet to dock in a handful of hamlets such as Lake City, Iowa (pop. 1,841).

Studio releases reach the nation’s smallest towns only after prints begin coming off screens in major market multiplexes. That typically takes two to six weeks, but in the case of the wildly successful “Titanic,” it has stretched to over three months.

Minting new prints

Fortunately for the micro-burgs, Paramount has decided to mint about 50 fresh prints of “Titanic” to replace those now in use at the highest grossing complexes. That will add to the pool of recycled prints now making their way to such metropolises as Brush, Colorado (pop. 4,165).

Bob Fridley, a Des Moines theater booker who handles Lake City’s Capri theater among others, said that he was offered 20 prints of “Titanic” when the film opened last December. He decided to take only 13.

“We had heard about problems in the production and the deal was for a firm four weeks,” said Fridley. “In theaters where we have only one screen, we didn’t want to tie up the theater for a month. In hindsight we wish we had.”

Not cost-effective

Sending new prints to minuscule towns simply isn’t cost-effective, explained Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen.

“In a town of 1,800 people where ticket prices are probably in the $3 to $3.50 range, even if every single person in town were to buy a ticket it would only come to about $6,000,” said Lewellen.

The studio is likely to see less than half of that amount, because second-run theaters pay a smaller percentage of the gross than those complexes that play a film “on the break.”

A single print of “Titanic” costs about $3,000 plus shipping, according to Lewellen.

“It’s strictly an economic decision,” he said.

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