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Although it’s the second-biggest box-office hit in history, it’s been nearly 15 years since Titanic first sailed across big screens. Now, ahead of its return to theaters in converted 3D form, the filmmakers behind the grand adventure are on a worldwide trip to reignite feelings for Jack and Rose all over again. Producer Jon Landau gave a screening in Mumbai this week to top Bollywood stars and industry figures and spoke with The Hollywood Reporter the next day in New Delhi about the conversion and re-release.
THR: Is the re-release of Titanic in 3D an attempt to make the movie more relevant to a new generation of moviegoers?
Jon Landau: It’s about offering a movie that should be seen on the big screen. For people who haven’t seen it before on the big screen, though they may have on TV or home video, they are gonna get to see it on a larger canvas. And for those who saw it 15 years ago, the 3D version makes it a whole new experience.
THR: How did your experience on Avatar come in handy?
Landau: We sure learned through Avatar. One of the things we try and do with all our movies is let them teach us for the next movie. We learned things like, in an action sequence, 3D is not as important as it is in a dramatic sequence. When you do a fast-cut sequence, you can reduce the 3D, but in a sequence where you get to study the shots, that’s when you really need to enhance the 3D.
THR: There’s a growing trend of re-releasing catalog films like Star Wars in 3D. How did you approach the conversion process?
Landau: Well, it was going to be a litmus test for us. We were not going to convert Titanic unless we thought we could do it at a quality level that Jim Cameron would be happy with; it had to live up to Jim’s standards. And we tested 15 different companies by giving them the same one minute of footage of five different scenes and asked them to convert that. And then we picked a company called Stereo D (part of Deluxe Entertainment Services), and they did a phenomenal job. Unlike many conversions that people have seen, we didn’t take six weeks to do this — we took 60. And we spent $18 million and had over 300 people working to do this. Jim Cameron looked at every frame of film and set the 3D space and made sure the shots looked great. And people aren’t going to notice the difference between this being shot on 3D or converted to 3D.
THR: How do you see the Indian market for 3D?
Landau: Not only is 3D the new thing here, the distribution is expanding. Overall, the number of theaters has gone up year after year, as have the admissions. That’s very exciting. I think India now ranks among the top 12 international territories, and I see it climbing that ladder even further because of the population here, because of companies like Big Cinemas (owned by Reliance MediaWorks) and PVR Cinemas building high-quality cinemas. Also, releasing international films dubbed in local languages is exciting. Titanic 3D is releasing in four Indian languages (opening April 5 with 250 prints in 3D and 50in 2D), and that’s great that a film is watched the way the local population can enjoy it.
THR: Generally speaking, how do you see the growth of 3D?
Landau: I think 3D is going to expand because everything is going to become 3D. If you work on a computer, right now it’s a poor man’s version of 3D. There is a window layered on top of another window and another window and so on. We see our lives in 3D, so it’s only natural we see all our viewing experiences in 3D.
THR: What kind of new technological developments can we see for the two Avatar sequels?
Landau: We are already working on technologies with Weta Digital to enhance the performances, to enhance the look of the [alien] world. We are working with companies like Christie’s projectors to release the movie at a higher frame rate, maybe 48 frames or even 60 frames per second, which will create a brighter image with no strobing. We are always looking to push the envelope.
THR: Avatar was also really more about the content than just the technology.
Landau: 3D does not make a bad movie good. So what Jim is focusing on as he is writing these scripts is to have the same type of thematic messaging, adventure and exploration in these next two stories. We are going to shoot them simultaneously and then release them a year apart. Avatar 2 will partly go underwater. I tell people going underwater will be like the floating mountains in the first movie. Some of it will be there, some won’t be there. What you will also see is [Avatar principal characters] Jake and Neytiri continuing to develop their relationship and coming to terms with what has happened in the past and how to look ahead to the future. Science fiction is a metaphor or can be a metaphor for the world in which we live. Through their relationship, we will get to reflect on the world we live in.
THR: So what kind of time frame are we looking at for these sequels?
Landau: We are working on them, and when they are ready, they will come out. You will just to have wait and see.
THR: Coming back to Titanic, when it first came out, some critics said that it was really like an Indian movie.
Landau: I definitely see that point, and I have been exposed to some Indian films, though I have seen more action and comedy films. Titanic even has a song in it! Music, romance, thematic structures where people overcome odds, rising from a class structure to find love in another class structure — these are universal themes. But I still have to say, I really haven’t seen any film that looks like Titanic anywhere in the world.
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