Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why Titanic is still the biggest blockbuster

So Avatar has been the No. 1 movie in America for 7 weeks and counting and its already made over $551 million in America. Pretty soon it's gonna be the highest grossing film in American history to join with it being the highest grossing film worldwide, passing that 2 1/2 hour love story I hated as a 13 y.o. kid called Titanic.

James Cameron - you're one lucky, creative S.O.B. Dude could never make a movie ever again and his grandkids would still be eating off Titanic, much less Avatar.

But no matter how much money it's already made, it will still never top Titanic as the biggest blockbuster of my lifetime. I'm an 1984 baby so we can't count E.T. - but here's why Avatar can't come close.

1) Titanic was the No. 1 movie in America for 15 straight weeks. Four months people. Avatar is only halfway there but I don't see it duplicating another 7 weeks. Plus remember, the Oscar buzz AFTER Titanic no doubt made it some more money.

2) Titanic the SOUNDTRACK was the No. 1 album in America for even longer - 16 weeks. This is where Avatar falls short. Nobody's rushing to get that soundtrack but the music from Titanic was everywhere. You couldn't go anywhere without hearing "My Heart Will Go On" or the various techno remixes. So the movie wasn't just dominating theatres, it was dominating the radio.

And lest we forget, that song won Four Grammys (including Record/Song of the Yr), an Oscar and a Golden Globe. It was No. 1 on SEVEN different U.S. charts (10 weeks on three of them) and of course led to an overkill that made us all hate Celine Dion.

(By the way, Dion put that song on her album Let's Talk About Love - helped her sell 10 million copies in the US and 31 million worldwide)

So to recap. Titanic had the No. 1 movie, album and song on lock for at least 2 1/2 months. Yeah, Avatar's got nothing on this, but oh wait, there's more.

3. Titanic made STARS out of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. I don't see any actors from Avatar become worldwide sensations, especially when the main characters are an indigenous tribe.

Kate and Leo already had Oscar nominations under their belt before this movie but they blew up to superstardom that has still followed them to this day. Fortunately, both of them have outgrown Jack and Rose and become two of the finest actors of this era (I still think Leo should have gotten a nomination for Titanic but eh - its hindsight)

Let's see Titanic blows Avatar away in durability, dominance in more than one medium and star-making ability. Anything else? Well, we'll have to wait and see on Oscar nominations but I highly doubt Avatar is gonna walk away with 11 Oscars.

Like Babe Ruth said after hitting 714 home runs, "let's see some SOB try to top that" - it will NEVER happen. Like Ruth's record, somebody may top it numbers-wise, but they won't have the impact of the initial powerbomb. Albums aren't selling and the last song from a movie soundtrack to made an impact was "Shake Ya Tailfeather" from Bad Boys 2.

So Avatar may make movie history and have quite a bit of deeper meanings, but it's far from having 1/4th of the impact Titanic had not just in the box offices but with other people's careers and other types of media.


  1. Amen, brother. I wish there was some statistic where social significance of a film can be measured, rather than using mere economics as the basis for comparison.

  2. True story. It beat Titanic out earlier this week, but when adjusted for inflation (and the added 3D cost) it ranks in at #26 of all time. According to the article, movie prices are up 56% from Titanic's debut.

    Gone with the Wind is at #1... Titanic ranks in at #6.

  3. When the greatest films of all time are done - they don't look at money, they look at acclaim, awards, impact in years to come, how it holds up years later. It's why Titanic, while a great epic, is probably not a Top-10 film of the last 20 years (but certainly deserving of its ranking in the AFI's Top 100 Movies given its impact)

    Bree brings up a good point - inflation. But I deliberately avoided that because it's a fairly easy argument to make. Ticket prices are radically different from 1997, 1982 (E.T.) 1939 (Gone With the Wind) so naturally a movie that makes bank now won't compare and i think it almost devalues the impact of a movie today.

    But it does do a great job of showing how huge films were back in the day when using how money is valued today. I saw something that Titanic worldwide grossed over $2 billion when adjusted.