Construction of a life-size Titanic replica as a tourist attraction began in China on Wednesday. It will offer tourists a simulation of the original Titanic’s iceberg collision and sinking.
Star Energy Investment Group will be building the ship as part of its Mediterranean-themed “Romandisea Seven Start International Cultural Tourism Resort” along the Qijiang River of Sichuan’s Daying County.
Su Shaojun, CEO of Seven Star, said that the project is now costing more than the originally slated figure of 1 billion yuan ($165 million) due to needed “adjustments” and the finishing date may be at the end of 2017 rather than October of that year. He did not name a new figure for the total cost but emphasized that this project is something China “needs”.
“So why (build this) in China? Because actually, with the Titanic, we’re presenting something for the whole of humanity. It’s not like a certain country owns this thing. Just like the U.S. can make ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and that’s very common. Same with ‘Mulan’,” Shaojun said.
“For China, the Titanic represents something of universal value. Every person must want something like this. Just like with modern society, we’re not saying this is the West and this is China. Everyone needs this sort of energy. I think it’s more meaningful that the ship is built in China,” he said.
The project aims to be more than a museum that replicates the original ship and the 1997 movie that became a global hit. The ship will allow several hundred people at a time to feel what the vessel was like.
Tuesday morning’s keel laying ceremony was attended not only by local government and corporate officials but also by former British First Secretary of State, Lord Peter Mandelson.
A barrage of fireworks followed the laying of the keel before attendees were whisked off to a global tourism forum in a nearby township.
Seven Star’s version of the Titanic, although life-size, will not replicate every nook and cranny of the doomed British passenger liner. Aside from its outward appearance, its interior should include a full replica of the ship’s ballroom as featured in the 1997 movie directed by James Cameron.
Veteran Hollywood production designer and producer Curtis Schnell, who has been hired on as the project’s Titanic design expert, said that despite criticisms that a devastating tragedy is being resurrected as a tourist attraction, Seven Star has recognized the project in a “very respectful way” and that the Titanic was more than “just a ship”.
“Well, we’re trying to get as close as we can. There are still problems with some things, and we are not building every room in the ship, by any means, but the shell of the ship and the exteriors will be quite accurate and there will be interior rooms to be able to tour, and seen from the standpoint of historical accuracy,” said Schnell.
The massive and luxurious Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, during its maiden voyage from the English port of Southampton to New York, taking more than 1,500 lives with it.
The 1997 movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is the second highest-grossing film on record (not adjusted for inflation) after “Avatar”, bringing in nearly $2.2 billion worldwide. The film has also garnered a massive following among younger Chinese.
Despite the 1997 film’s popularity, most villagers around the Romandisea construction site said they had never heard of the ship before developers chose the site to build the replica.
Nevertheless, they hope its coming will bring prosperity and not a forced relocation.
“If we’re not going to have to move out of here then that will be really good for us. Us old folks might do a little business in that case. But then if we have to move then that won’t be any good. They wouldn’t provide enough compensation for us to get by,” said Li Jieyong, 60, from a nearby farming village.
Residents in downtown Daying were much more upbeat about the project.
“This will definitely be dynamic for our industry and the tourist industry, as well as the economy. It’s very obvious to say that there will be large numbers of tourists coming to Daying, or that when Daying’s migrant population increases and renting homes becomes more expensive, our job will be much bigger than before,” said Dan Yongwei, a local real estate agent.