Even if you haven’t seen James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), you probably still know about it. And if you’ve been lucky enough to escape word of Kate & Leo’s ocean liner romance, then apologies for the “spoiler”, but Leo doesn’t make it (it is called Titanic.) Yep, Leo has an unfortunate iceberg incident. Much like the iceberg, this film is BIG. It also comes with all manner of movie manipulation – music cues and camera angles that could make a grown woman cry (or at least bring a moderately less callous teenage version of the grown woman penning this post to tears). Basically, it’s the kind of big screen cry-fest that if you want to see, you want to see in the Astor’s auditorium, presented in glorious 70mm.
We’ve screened this print a number of times over the years and, even with the yards of critical distance we’ve garnered over that time, it never fails to attract a crowd and leave a majority of our audience with tear-stained cheeks when the credits roll. But if that’s true, why does our calendar say “Final Screening Ever in 70mm”? I suppose the best way to explain it is simply: despite the Astor being pretty much the only place in Australia that still screens 70mm film prints (there are a small handful of other 70mm capable venues but, of them, none screen 70mm on a regular roster and most don’t screen it at all), this will be our last screening of Titanic in 70mm. At least as far as we are aware and as far as it’s fair to let you know in case you want to get along to see it before it disappears from our SuperScreen, the print will thereafter journey to Canberra where it will take up permanent residency in the archive (NFSA).
It used to be that distributors stored their film prints at dispatch locations across the country. There was a very large one in Melbourne right up until late last year. But, with the studios’ ever-impending agenda to eradicate film prints from the market (stupid, enraging and astoundingly short-sighted) that facility down-sized and moved miles across Melbourne to a smaller (and no doubt more affordable) space that would only house DCPs. Some prints, due to the occasionally sensible studios who decid not to throw everything out, were moved elsewhere for safekeeping (much thanks here to Chapel Distribution) while others were junked (destroyed). A number of other studios deemed some prints important enough to keep but perhaps not necessary to continue to exhibit and so, as with Titanic on 70mm, and many other valued classic prints, these will soon to make their way to the NFSA for preservation.
The good news is that the print still exists. The bad news is that we aren’t necessarily in a position to freight film prints interstate and there’s also the question of archival criteria. One of the many stipulations for borrowing classic titles from archives now is that exhibitors must have archival status – or at least partial archival status (something we don’t have).
In short: we probably won’t ever screen Titanic in 70mm print format again. So, if you want to watch Leo die (and who wouldn’t?!) get yourself along to the Astor next Wednesday so that you can give him and the print the blubbering farewell they deserve.