Yes, there are still people who haven’t seen Titanic, at least 54 million of them—but that might not be true for long. Today this year’s 3-D remake of the epic film will become the first American studio picture to screen in Burma (also known as Myanmar) in recent history.
Burma is in the midst of an ongoing transition toward openness, following decades of isolating rule by an oppressive military leadership. And, while movies may seem insignificant alongside the other challenges facing the Southeast Asian nation, a little Leonardo DiCaprio never hurt anyone—the key word being “little.” There are only 100 cinemas in Burma, according to Variety, and Mingalar Co., the local distributor with whom 20th Century Fox is working, controls eight of them. Those eight are not likely to contribute more than a tiny increase to the more than $285 million that the 3-D movie has already made in foreign markets. Still, there are other benefits for its studio, at least in a big picture sense. (Pun intended.)
Just because Fox left Burma in 1962, following the nation’s military coup, doesn’t actually mean that none of the studio’s movies were being shown within those borders. Smuggled copies of Hollywood movies were often shown in Burmese theaters, reports Voice of America. According to 20th Century Fox International’s senior vice president Sunder Kimatrai:
“We have an interest in protecting our intellectual property, it is after all our most valuable asset. As we do anywhere else, we do whatever we can to enforce our property rights,” said Kimatrai. “And certainly in time that is something we would want to consider doing in Burma. Unauthorized screenings on the internet or in cinemas are a problem that we face around the world. In that regard Burma is no exception.”
Maintaining a legitimate business presence in Burma could help curb the pirating problem—but it will only add more people to the list of those wondering one of moviedom’s most burning questions: why couldn’t Jack and Rose share the raft?