Box Office Champion: Titanic or Phantom Menace? : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

I have a friendly bet with my son who thinks that Lucas' film Phantom Menace will do better at the box office that Titanic did. What do you think? We may need Dan's help on this.

-- Gordon W. Usticke (, April 13, 1999


Just a thought, but somehow I don't think so. They are really two different types of films in that Titanic is based on a real event in world history (other than Jack and Rose, of course) and the new film is strictly fiction. Nothing wrong with that but I just do not see how a comparison can be made other than raw numbers.


-- Peter Nivling (, April 13, 1999.

Just a couple other things that pop to mind. Titanic was released in December in the dead of winter (or late fall actually) and this is being released in the spring. I don't know how much the weather affects the movie goers but I would bet it would have some impact on the draw. I would not doubt it would do as well, if not better, when released on tape but at the box office I really don't think it will have the long life that Titanic had.


-- Peter Nivling (, April 13, 1999.

I think it is going to be close. The movies released in summer generally do better, I think, because kids are out of school, so they can go more often. If Phantom Menace has the same attraction Titanic had with people seeing it over and over and over again, it may do better because people will have more of an opportunity to see it over and over and over again. Of course, it will also probably have more competition. (The only thing Titanic was up against was Good Will Hunting, if memory serves). Either way, it will be interesting to find out.

-- Misty (, April 13, 1999.

A few months back I thought "Phantom Menace" might have a chance at the B.O. record. I really don't think it has a chance now. Lucus previewed the rough-cut film recently for a select group of director and producer friends looking for advice on the final cut. While these friends were obviously obliged to say as little as possible, rumor is that many believe the film stinks as-is and may have insurmountable problems - or that the film at least doesn't live up to the extreme hype. How could it? Stunning special effects, which drove the first 3 Star Wars movies, have become commonplace. I just can't think of how it can be shockingly original enough in that regard to generate "Titanic" box-office without intriguing plot or characters. Especially after seeing "The Matrix". The plot? Remember this is a prequel. Don't look for anything new - this movie will be pure exposition. We've already seen the development. The characters? How the hell will they top Darth Vader, et al?

It's also a daunting challenge to try to strike the right balance between fidelity with the tone of the original 3 films (which now appear quaint after 20 years) and modern sensibilities. I'm interested in whether or not Lucas is going primarily for nostalgia or to win over a new generation. Doing both is damn near impossible.

That said, "Phantom Menance" will still do great business. I wish I had a stake in it. My prediction: $300 to $400 million domestic gross. But NOWHERE NEAR the "Titanic" $1.2 billion international take; there will be no long lines for a Star Wars flick in Sweden.

-- Dalton (, April 14, 1999.

Of course, you have to remember that many people will be going to see Phantom Menace simply because it's in the Star Wars line. When they re-released the Star Wars trilogy recently, theaters were packed! People were lining up to experience Star Wars in the theater one more time. It has a lot of sentimental value for many people, young and old. So the next Star Wars movies already have a dedicated audience, even before they're released!

-- Nonnie Parker (, April 14, 1999.

The only real answer: we'll have to wait and see.

Of course, it depends on which country's box office receipts one looks at; domestically (just the USA), I predict Episode One will easily reach the $500 million mark, and within the month of June.

As for Dalton's comments, I'd take them with a large grain of salt the size of a small cow lick. Again, time will tell.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, April 14, 1999.

Considering that TITANIC had a tremendous appeal to young teenage girls who ran back to the theater to see TITANIC over and over and over, and considering that this is what made the movie so financially successful, I really doubt that the first of the new Star Wars movies will be able to even dent the success of TITANIC.

-- Ed (, April 16, 1999.

There's another thing... Phantom Menace is being release a few days early in some major cities. Tickets are over 300+ dollars. There might be a big difference between the gross and the number of people who actually went to see the movie. And don't forget, ticket price have increased 25 cents.

-- Rose (, April 17, 1999.

Where I live, ticket prices have actually gone DOWN a buck. Wonder how long that will last....

-- Nonnie Parker (, April 20, 1999.

Even if PM comes close in box ffice values to Titanic, it's gonna be primarily due to the extreme hype effect. Besides that, it's just another sci-fi flick among a million others. Back at 70s, Star war was certainly revolutionary, but definitely not now.

There is just no comparison.

-- Jackie Shaw (, May 01, 1999.

and besides all that, jackie, there is no harrison ford...

-- cgk (, May 02, 1999.

After hearing some of the advanced buzz on The Phantom Menace, I'd say that almost all of the box office records will fall.

Anyone want to explain Darth Maul to Dan? =)

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, May 06, 1999.

Well, when you think about it, why did everyone flock to see Titanic? Was it the history aspect, the special effects or the Jack and Rose thing? I'm talking about initial viewing, not repeat or later viewings. I don't think that these two films can be compared only because they are not in any way related (except FX possibly). I do think it will be succesful but it won't have the staying power that "Titanic" had. After all, it's been two years and we are still here!


-- Peter Nivling (, May 09, 1999.

i think there are probably an awful lot of star wars enthusiasts out there who will go see pm numerous times, just like titanic. i personally am already sick of the hype, and don't plan to see the movie until this subsides somewhat. maybe titanic and pm will somehow tie??

-- cgk (, May 09, 1999.

It's been what, twenty or so years since Star Wars first came out, and people every where are "still here" (to borrow a phrase from Peter). The original Star Wars trilogy has an appeal that has held for quite some time. Star Wars fans may not have the same type of connection to SW as TITANIC fans have to Titanic, but they are still quite dedicated. I think PM has the potential to come close to Titanic--if it can 'live up' to its predecessors (SW trilogy). I, for one, admit that I am a dedicated Star Wars fan--you can find me waiting in line to see George Lucas' latest addition to the Star Wars family (let's just hope its good). :)

-- Nonnie (, May 10, 1999.

From a review by Richard Corliss in Time Magazine, May 17, 1999:
"Robust cheers greeted the first words of the sacred text ("A long time ago...") and the blast of John Williams' brass as the title Star Wars appeared. Later there was mild applause at Yoda's arrival. By then the impulse to ectasy had been diluted into rote nostalgia...."

"That would explain the gobs of dry exposition, devoted to blustering, filibustering debates on taxation and elections. It's all very edifying."

"One suspects that Lucas was more interested in the aliens than the humans, and in the art direction than the direction of actors...."

More salt, anyone? BTW: I can barely wait to see it. Make that domestic gross estimate $400,000,007.50. I'm at the high end of the scale now simply because of the incredibly brilliant marketing of this "event" by Lucas.

Lucas is a genius!

{added blockquotes for clarity}

-- Dalton (, May 10, 1999.

Just have to comment on the hilarious cover on that May 17 Time Magazine. The look of horror on the Star Wars creature in the upper right corner, as he (she?) overlooks the main cover picture of Albright on the cell phone, wearing her NATO bomber jacket....


-- Dalton (, May 10, 1999.

Phantom Menace isn't going to gross $1.2bn, but it might make that much from merchandising.

When I watched the first Stars Wars film I was a child, and I suppose I thought they were pretty sophisticated. If this film does have any impact it will be on children; reviews from in-house screenings deride the film for being over pitched towards children.

I loved the first films, but I don't know how Lucas is going to do it all over again. Star Wars is quaint and intellectually naive: a childish(not being used perjoratively) representation of good and evil etc. This film might be successful if it counters the recent trend towards moral ambiguity/relativism. That's probably why people liked Titanic; Jack was *so* good, and whatshisname was *so* bad. Perhaps Cameron should have cast Darth Vader as Rose's fiance... You can get away with such clear-cut oppositions in fantasy, but it reality requires a little bit of ambiguity to make it possible(maybe Cameron should look that word up).

George Lucas really is a big child; I can't believe he compared Darth Maul to Satan in Paradise Lost. Milton would be furious. I wish I could wipe 15 years off my age, then I could really enjoy the new Star Wars films. Alas, I am now an adult...


-- Matthew Pope (, May 11, 1999.

I have to agree somewhat. Having never seen any of the Star Wars Trilogy, I recently borrowed all three movies from a friend and decided to sit down and watch them, so as to be ready for this "Phantom Menace". But, I couldn't make it through the first movie, let alone, watch all three. My children will probably enjoy them in a few years though.

But in all fairness, I am not a fan of science fiction. I hope all of you who are counting down the days, enjoy the show!

-- Courtney (, May 11, 1999.

Matthew, alas indeed.

Consider the following: Upon overhearing a critic of his work claim, "My 6 year old son could have painted that!" Joan Miro is said to have heartily shaken the man's hand and said, "Thank you sir. When I was 6, I could paint like Raphael. It took me YEARS to learn how to paint like a child!"

BTW: The word "childish" connotes an unbefitting (as exhibited by an adult) lack of maturity and is, regardless of your qualification, pejorative. Better to use the word "childlike" which is more shaded toward the connotation of innocence. Doing so would have enabled you to avoid using such terms as "pejorative", which betray far too much pedantry for anyone not named George to employ here...

(Misty: Notice how I scrupulously avoided the "p" word by using "unbefitting" instead?)

-- Dalton (, May 11, 1999.

Very impressive, Dan! To bad I still have to take out the hand thesaurus and dictionary when I visit this site!

-- Misty (, May 11, 1999.

I wish Dan worked at my university. He is much better at correcting my faulty english than my so-called professors of the subject. I would have probably got a better degree too!

I do regress when I watch the originals; those Stars Wars figures and toys devoured a huge chunk of my childhood. Growing up is such a bind; where did my sense of wonder go?

-- Matthew (, May 12, 1999.

This is not because Titanic is my favorite movie (I actually prefer to see movies of all kinds), but I don't think the new Star Wars is really going to be that big. Sure, it may gross a few million dollars, but let me tell you why I think it's just the hype that will draw the most attention: in the 70's, when the original Star Wars came out, special effects were pretty rare. It used to be, in a matter of speaking, that seeing is believing. But now, in this day in age, with computer imaging and all sorts of green screen tricks, Star Wars is just another computer animated flick. Don't get me wrong, it's not JUST a computer animated flick, but in the 70's, seeing the technology for the special effects back then were amazing to those who had never experienced it before. But now, we see this even on the simplest T.V. shows, and I don't think it really suprises us anymore! I haven't seen all the movies, so I can only speak on behalf of myself. Just a thought!

-- Kelly (, May 13, 1999.

Hi Kelly:

That's an excellent point! Not to say the film won't be popular because it already is, even before it's opening. However, if they relied on special effects to bring in the bucks, it's a case of (as you say), "been there, done that" and it won't fly on just that. If they have a good story behind all the effects, then they could succeed.


-- Peter Nivling (, May 14, 1999.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you seen the movie? If so, what did you think? I saw it at 8:30 this morning, and I really liked it. I think I liked this one better than any of the first three. Granted, I was not a big Star Wars fan to begin with-it was always just mildly entertaining, but this morning, the excitement was contagious. There was cheering, laughing, and people dressed like the characters (though not many.) The entire experience was fun. What did everyone else think?

-- Misty (, May 19, 1999.

Well, I just got back from seeing for the first time Star Wars: Phantom Menace! And I have to say, it was good, but surprisingly not great. However, that just goes for me - there were teens in there a little older than I with their little light savers and Darth Vader masks, completely enjoying themselves and cheering to every scene. There were moments that I was completely lost in the moment and found myself smiling and laughing, too, so it was really quite enjoyable! But since I needed only to wait literally about 5 seconds to get my ticket and there wasn't any line at all to get in the theater ( though it was packed), I can pretty much say that all the die hard Star Wars fans packed the theaters in the film's first release, and all the hype was dying down after only a few days. I went with a couple of my friends who didn't like it at all, so there was definitely a change in opinion. I did like it, but it (like any movie) had its major bloopers - all of the sudden, while Anakin is playing with his buddies, one of his friends says a line and smiles to reveal her mouth full of blue-banded braces! I think the whole audience was wondering about that, seeing as to the film takes place in the future. (I would have thought that by then we would have genetic engineering!:-) But anyway, to compare this fun-filled utter fantasy action movie to Titanic would be like comparing apples and oranges, but based on my theater experience, I think all the hype is slowly disappearing after all the fans have waited in line for hours already! But I don't think I'd see it twice. Just my two cents...

-- Kelly (, May 22, 1999.

Given Kelly's experience, I might try the 1:30am show tonight and see if I can get in. The bonus: Fewer 6 year olds.

Unlike Titanic, I think word-of-mouth for Phantom Menace is likely to diminish the audience for the film. I remember seeing Titanic the first weekend it was released and the theater was nearly full, but we got tickets 15 minutes before the show without a problem. Two or three weeks later, I was surprised to find all shows sold out. Who'd have guessed that 13 yr-old girls could stay out that late? Look for Phantom Menace box-office to drop off precipitously in the next few weeks, Titanic might yet remain on top.

-- Dalton (, May 22, 1999.

Currently, Episode I is doing better than Titanic: $300 million in about 28 days versus 44 days for Titanic.

It should be remembered that the best single day for box office receipts for Titanic was Valentine's Day, almost two months into its first run.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, June 19, 1999.

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