In 1997 a little movie called Titanic swept away the world. It grossed over $600 million in the United States alone and won a record-tying 11 Academy Awards. On the heels of the 100th anniversary of the infamous ship’s sinking, the film was rereleased in movie theaters in 3-D this April.
Titanic is not the first film to get this treatment. In fact, the catalyst for the recent bombardment of 3-D re-releases began in September when The Lion King grossed a stunning $30.2 million in its opening weekend. The film ended its second life in theaters with a whopping $94 million.
After the wild success of The Lion King, Disney promptly announced that Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid and Monsters Inc. would all be re-released in theaters with the extra dimension. At the time, it was the smartest move the company could make, as 3-D conversions are relatively inexpensive and appear to bring in large profits.
This trend, however, didn’t last long. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Beauty and the Beast both got released in the months following The Lion King. The Phantom Menace grossed a mere $43 million while Beauty and the Beast managed to snag a little over $47 million.
While the relative success of each of these movies is indicative of moviegoers’ interest, the real issue here is whether or not there is a valid reason to re-release movies in 3-D.
All of these movies have been available for home viewing for years, so why would anyone bother to pay extra money to see them in 3-D? It seems even more ridiculous when you consider that none of these movies were originally conceived for the format.
It’s also worth noting that these movies made gargantuan sums of money during their original run in theaters. When you consider how much money movies like Titanic and The Lion King made back in the ‘90s, it makes the re-releases seem like manipulative cheap cash grabs.
So as Titanic continues its current run in theaters, industry insiders will be closely tracking its success. It could either signal the end of a waning trend or that next up is Gone With the Wind: In 3-D!