James Cameron's Titanic, the most expensive movie ever committed to film, has cruised closer to profitibility, passing the $100 million mark at the box office in only 12 days.

Hampered by a runaway budget ($200 million for production, another $100 million for marketing), cast and crew mutinies and a three-hour-plus running time (taboo in Tinseltown), the epic tale of the doomed ocean liner seemed destined to sink at the box office. In fact, Industry analysts said the Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet, um, vehicle would have to haul in more than $400 million for co-studios Paramount and Fox to break even. One hundred million down, three to go.

But this Titanic has been buoyed by critical raves and strong word-of-mouth, topping the box office each of the past two weeks and tallying more than $88 million. Add in strong receipts for Monday ($8 million) and Tuesday ($8.5 million) and Titanic became the 12th film released in 1997 to pass the coveted $100 million milestone with nearly $105 million.

According to Daily Variety projections, Titanic will eventually reach the $200 million mark, the third film released in '97 to do so behind Men in Black ($250 million) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park ($229 million). The film's foreign haul should also be shipshape, with estimates in the $100-$150 million range.

And figure in another $100 million or so from home video, TV rights and merchandising and Titanic could actually make money.

(For the record, the other 1997 films that reached $100 million were: Air Force One ($171 million), Batman & Robin ($107 million), Con Air ($101 million), Contact ($100 million), Face/Off ($112 million), George of the Jungle ($105 million), Hercules ($100 million), Liar Liar ($181 million) and My Best Friend's Wedding ($127 million). The revamped Star Wars notched $138 million, but it was originally released in 1977.)

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