Smooth Sailing for Top-Grossing Titanic

Director James Cameron's Titanic is not only afloat but appears to be eminently seaworthy. The epic disaster drama's three-hour-and15-minute length is apparently no drawback for film fans, who packed theaters to the tune of a $51.9 million gross in the first week following the film's release, according to Exhibitor Relations Company, which tracks box-office results.

Originally scheduled for a summer release, Titanic suffered some production and post-production problems that delayed its appearance until the Christmas season. Neither the delay nor the film's expense---over $200 million, making it the most expensive movie ever---generated the prerelease bad press that accompanied Kevin Costner's Waterworld, the previous big-budget record holder. On the contrary, the delay seems to have created more interest. Titanic should also do very well in the video rental market.

It seems big-budget epics just don't work for Costner. His post-apocalyptic The Postman, which got "thumbs down" from many reviewers, pulled in only $1.6 million in its theatrical debut. Dances with Wolves remains the best-received big film Costner has ever done.

Tomorrow Never Dies, the latest James Bond thriller, starring Pierce Brosnan, was second in overall sales, grossing $26 million in its opening weekend. With a long-established audience, Bond films are certain winners both at the box office and in the rental market.

Other holiday hits include Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, which, by Dec. 27, had done $3.9 million in initial business. The comeback vehicle for actors Pam Grier and Robert Forster looks promising.

An American Werewolf in Paris drew $3.5 million, followed by As Good as it Gets at $3.4 million. Scream 2 pulled in $2.7 million, 30% more than MouseHunt at $1.8 million, according to the Associated Press. All should be popular with home theater fans.