An American movie hasn't played in Myanmar's movie theaters in so long that even the Hollywood box office tabulators can remember exactly when the last Myanmar citizens shuffled disappointed out of the last bloated studio production. All that is about to change, however, when Titanic 3-D opens Aug. 17 in the slowly democratizing Southeast Asian country, offering Myanmar cinephiles what is essentially a three-plus hour summary of everything that's happened with American moviemaking over the last 25 years.
The country formerly known as Burma has recently made some surprising efforts to loosen the grip its military dictatorship has on political life. In 2010, long-jailed dissident Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party were allowed to compete in a national election, just one of many signals that Myanmar is trying to liberalize its democracy as well as its economy. What better way to continue the process than by letting James Cameron have access to a whole new movie market? Titanic 3-D has been a big hit overseas, grossing $287 million, $146 million of which came from Myanmar's big next-door neighbor, China. Titanic has never been screened before in Myanmar, let alone in three dimensions, so bringing Titanic 3-D to Myanmar is a little like giving a child who's eaten only fruits, vegetables and whole grains all her life a Reese's and watching her pupils dilate to the relative size of wormholes.