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Tuesday, February 3, 1998 Published at 10:08 GMT


Titanic rides high
image: [ The film Titanic has easily pulled in more money than the $200m spent on it ]
The film Titanic has easily pulled in more money than the $200m spent on it

There is still one week to go until the Oscars but already James Cameron, the Titanic director, has a satisfied grin on his face.

Only two months ago, Hollywood insiders predicted Cameron was sunk. His film had gone from a $100m budget, which was in itself a record, to a figure somewhere around twice that.

Everyone knew the story the director wanted to tell before he had started. What if no one wanted to watch his three hour 45 minute epic - in the same way Kevin Costner's Waterworld had failed to grab the public's attention despite its mega-budget?

[ image: Spin-offs such as this book have followed]
Spin-offs such as this book have followed
But with the Titanic continuing to ride high for a seventh week at the top of the US box office charts, Cameron must feel both justification and satisfaction.

Over the past weekend, the film grossed $25.9m, only fractionally less than in its first two nights. American ticket sales alone already total £308m - a 50% return on even the largest estimates of the investment.

Now the buzz around Hollywood is that Titanic could become the first ever billion dollar grossing movie and set a new high for studio take.

The current record-holder is Steven Speilberg's Jurassic Park. It came close to achieving the magic figure by pulling in $913m.

[ image: James Cameron:
James Cameron: "As good as it gets"
Cameron, if clearly ecstatic, is keen not to get completely bogged down by the numbers. Naturally, he wants people to think he made a good film for the viewers as well as co-producers Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount.

"This is as good as it gets," he says. "We have a commercial hit and a critical hit at the same time."

Even competitors are full of praise. The president of marketing at MGM, Gerry Rich, says: "This thing has built momentum like we've never seen before. I don't see anything in the near horizon that will knock it off its perch."

But what could be the Titanic's iceberg? Warner Bros' offering, US Marshalls, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes could put up a fight when it is released on March 6.

A week later, The Man in the Iron Mask will also be released in the US. Before the Titanic, this period drama may not have had great expectations but the fact that it stars Leonardo Di Caprio, the lead actor in Cameron's film, is on its own enough to guarantee packed cinemas on the first night and beyond.

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