James Cameron’s Titanic was bumped to number three on China’s list of all-time highest grossing movies in January by domestic comedy romp, Lost in Thailand. But that doesn’t mean the country’s millions of moviegoers don’t still swoon at the mere thought of Jack and Rose at the prow of the doomed cruise liner. The hearts of Chinese Titanic lovers will, indeed, go on.
In April of 2012, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer announced plans to build the Titanic 2, a high-tech replica of the Olympic-class ship that went down in 1912 – famously memorialized in Cameron’s mega-blockbuster.
The key difference between the two vessels -- apart from some updated safety measures -- will be the new ship’s provenance: the Titanic II is being made in China, rather than England.
According to Blue Star Line, the cruise line company Palmer founded to build and manage the vessel, the Titanic II was designed by Finnish naval architecture firm Deltamarin, but is being built in China’s Jiangsu province by state-owned Chinese shipyard CSC Jinling.
Over the weekend, Blue Star held a galla dinner in the Chinese casino city of Macau -- a Portuguese colony until 1999 -- as an early promotional event for the vessel in progress. Some 600 guests were invited to a black-tie, eleven-course meal, which replicated the menu served the night the Titanic sank.
Palmer introduced the dinner via a video conference call from Australia, saying, according to the Wall Street Journal: “Why build the Titanic? Why go to the moon?”
In a political nod to his hosts, and would-be customers, he added: “Why did Hong Kong and Macau stand up and become part of China? Because they could. And they can. And we can build the Titanic.”
Chinese Titanic fans have reacted to the news that the ship will be built at home with a mixture of skepticism and delight, according to the Journal's report published Monday.
“They’ve really got guts. You see how many collapsing bridges there are in China, and how much ‘tofu-style’ construction there is, and they still dare to do it,” the Journal quoted one micro-blogger as writing.
“Titanic II is being built by a Chinese shipyard!! How stupid. Do you want to re-enact the original ending?” wrote another.
And yet, according to Palmer's reps, some 40,000 people have already expressed interest in setting sail on the Titanic II -- and 35 percent of those inquiries have come from China (all the more impressive, considering the language barrier).
Yang Luxing, a 29-year-old resident of Nanjing, where the ship is being built, told The China Daily that the construction of the replica ship will allow her to fulfill a "long-cherished dream” and that she “doesn't mind how expensive the ticket.”
"The important thing is that Titanic suggests a beautiful love story for me, because I watched the movie when I was a teenager," Yang said. "Its voyage, especially the first one, means more than other ships' maiden voyages for many people, including me."
The ship will accommodate a total 2,400 passengers; Blue Star is aiming for a 2016 maiden voyage departing from Southampton and traveling to New York City. Blue Star told the Journal that some prospective Chinese customers have said they would be willing to pay as much as $1 million for a cabin.