3-D Titanic: A Second Life for the Second Biggest Film Ever

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a scene from the movie "Titanic"
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a scene from the movie "Titanic"

Titanic 3-D has a lot working in its favor when it opens in 2600 theaters in the U.S. and in 100 countries around the world—awareness is huge.

Fifteen years ago the film broke records and became the biggest film ever, beaten only by another epic by director and producer James Cameron, Avatar.

Paramount and 20th Century Fox , which are splitting distribution of the film, spent $18 million to convert the film into 3-D.

There’s no question it will pay off in droves.

Paramount is releasing the movie in 2,600 US locations, including previews on 300 screens last night that drew lines. Hollywood.com’s Paul Dergarabedian tells me the movie’s expected to gross between $30 million and $35 million its first five days. The studio’s goal — lure original fans plus a new generation of moviegoers, teen girls in particular.

But the real opportunity may be overseas – Fox is releasing the movie in over 100 countries. Expectations are particularly high for the film’s performance in China and Russia. In both countries Titanic 3-D will be available on more than 10 times the screens as the original film was. The number of theaters has exploded, and the fact that the film’s in 3-D means theaters offer something that can’t be pirated.

Titanic may have massive built-in awareness, but it does face some challenges at the box office. It’s up against Hunger Games, which continues to draw crowds. Plus, the movie is over three hours long, which means theaters can’t play it as many times as regular length films, which are often half as long.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com