Few have made more money on projects that people thought were doomed than James Cameron has. When “Avatar” was released in 2009, coming in tens of millions of dollars over budget, critical observers were quick to proclaim that the filmmaker would have egg on his face. Then the film grossed over $2 billion dollars at the box office and became the highest grossing movie of all time. (“Avengers: Endgame” usurped it, but a recent Chinese re-release has put “Avatar” back on top again.)
You’d think that observers would be a little less quick to dismiss Cameron as a box office powerhouse, since the same pattern had taken place a decade earlier. “Titanic” cost over $200 million to make in 1997, had a troubled production, and at three hours was considered way too long to be a viable box office hit. Fox was so desperate they wanted to cut an hour out of the movie, but Cameron refused. He offered to forfeit his share of the profits of the film, which Fox at first didn’t accept— they were certain there would be no profits, anyway.
But, hey, what do you know? “Titanic” wasn’t a gigantic flop. Instead it became the highest grossing movie of all time, and still ranks at number 3. The long length didn’t deter audiences from coming back again and again, with the film sitting at or near the top of the box office for months after its release.
Revisiting the movie now, it remains a marvel of production design and special effects, with the remarkable recreation of the ship down to the last detail never ceasing to be jaw-dropping. But the core of the film remains the relationship between Jack and Rose, one of the most iconic of modern screen romances. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have gone on to varied and successful careers, but for many modern audiences, their affection for these actors will forever be linked to the emotional tale of young lovers who made a connection, however fleeting, before history intervened.
“Titanic” is available for streaming on Paramount+ and Netflix.