The TCL Theater in Hollywood was impressively full – just as packed, in fact, as the no-frills, suburban Chicago movie theater was when I first saw “Titanic” with my parents in the ’90s as a pop culture-obsessed 9-year-old.
Seeing the movie for the first time is a core memory.
I’d never seen anything like it. My young little brain had never processed content like that, and I couldn’t look away. The eye-catching costumes, the massive sets, the intense action, the knowledge that this was based on a true and tragic event, Leonardo Dicaprio’s gorgeous face splashed across the screen and, of course, the love story told throughout (between DiCaprio’s Jack and Kate Winslet’s Rose) all resulted in my ability to sit still for three hours – something my parents never thought was possible.
Well, I sat mostly still. I remember running, red-faced, out of the theater right after Rose seductively asked Jack to draw her “like one of [his] French girls” – in the nude, wearing only the fictional 56-carat “heart of the ocean” that her fiancé egregiously gifted her. I refused to watch whatever was happening after that scene while sitting next my parents and only returned once I confirmed with a peek back at the screen that Rose was fully clothed. (Of course, the pair later have sex in a car and again had me wishing I could disappear.)
Seeing the movie for the first time also gave way, like it did for many at the time, to a deep, breathless love for DiCaprio. He became the king of my world, and I was very much part of the Leo-mania that ensued in the ’90s (and, for some of us, never ended).
Twenty-five years later, on this night in Los Angeles, surrounded by other people who likely had their own core memories, there was a cult-like vibe that permeated through the theater. As soon as the title card splashed across the iconic theater’s IMAX screen, cheering and applauding erupted.
That vibrant spirit held up throughout the entire screening. The audience applauded at first sight of the movie’s star, Oscar-winner Winslet, and audibly booed when Billy Zane’s easy-to-hate Cal Hockley first appeared on screen.
Whistles and cheers filled the room for Gloria Stuart when she made her cheeky quips in the opening scenes of the film.
Audience members could be heard reciting lines throughout the screening and singing to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” during the end credits.
The loudest audience reactions came when Jack buoyantly jumped on the bow of the Titanic to declare “I’m the king of the world!”
After all these years, both DiCaprio and the movie certainly still know how to rule a box office.
Director James Cameron’s crown jewel has already grossed over $22.3 million worldwide since it docked back into theaters on February 9, an impressive turnout in an era where “Titanic,” and almost any other movie, is available to watch at home.
The action-packed three-hour epic about the tragic maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic, which sank in the middle of the Atlantic in 1912, grossed $1.8 billion in 1997.
Seeing it again on the big screen still had an impact – even if the 3D effects seemed unnecessary at worst and only really effective in the film’s final hour, when the mood in the theater shifted from raucous and celebratory to somber.
I admittedly contributed to the symphony of sniffles that could be heard as the ship began to sink, as if I was watching the auburn-haired mother read her two children their last bedtime story or the elderly couple hold each other in their bed as water poured into their room for the first time.
It’s tough to recall if I cried 25 years ago, but I know my parents did. It was the first time I ever saw them cry during a movie and vividly remember my dad shedding a tear right next to me. It always stuck.
One moment that did hit differently during my big-screen rewatch: Though the audience hooted and hollered for Jack and Rose’s drawing scene, I found it to be a beautifully intimate moment. It almost felt like I was imposing on this private moment between two people who were deeply in love and even though the scene was masterfully done in good taste, I wanted to give them space. Is this what maturity feels like?
You’d also think that 25 years was long enough to get over Jack’s death. It’s not. I was and am part of the chorus that insist Jack could have fit on the floating piece of wood that saved Rose.
And though Cameron kind-of-sort-of proved Jack couldn’t have survived, it is clear that the magic of “Titanic” has.