More than a century after its ill-fated maiden voyage, the Titanic is being resurrected at a landlocked Chinese amusement park, where visitors will soon be able to spend the night on a fullscale replica.
The key sponsor of the project was motivated to revive the world’s most notorious cruise liner by the 1997 box office hit of the same name, which was once the world’s top-grossing film and wildly successful in China.
The original luxury yacht, the biggest of its day and dubbed “unsinkable” by its owners, has been a byword for arrogance ever since it sank into the waters of the Atlantic after colliding with an iceberg in 1912, killing over 1,500 people.
Investor Su Shaojun says he was motivated to finance the audacious, 260-metre-long (850-foot-long) duplicate to keep memories of the Titanic alive.
“I hope this ship will be here in 100 or 200 years,” Su said.
“We are building a museum for the Titanic.”
It took six years – longer than the first Titanic – plus 23,000 tonnes of steel, over a hundred jobs, and a hefty one billion yuan ($153.5 million) price tag.
The dining room, luxurious cabins, and even the door handles are all inspired by the original Titanic.
It is the centrepiece of a theme park in Sichuan Province, more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the sea.
The site includes a recreation of Southampton Port from James Cameron’s 1997 tragedy epic, in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s fictitious character Jack swings on board after winning a bet.
Tour buses play the film’s theme tune, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, on repeat.
It costs up to 2,000 yuan (around $150) to spend one night on the ship for the “five-star cruise service”, Su says, adding that with a functioning steam engine guests will feel that they are really at sea.
He was so excited by the challenge that he sold his energy industry assets, including a stake in several hydropower projects, to invest in the Titanic.
– ‘Inherit the great spirit’ –
But even before opening, the replica has drawn plenty of controversy.
Online users have questioned whether the famous ship would attract tourists given the disaster that struck its real-life inspiration.
Others feared it would join other ambitious Chinese building projects that turned into white elephants — including a 2008 replica of the USS Enterprise, an American aircraft carrier, which cost over $18 million and was abandoned shortly after it opened.
But Su hopes as many as five million annual visitors will come to see his Titanic.
“This tourist volume should guarantee the return of our investment,” he added.
Project manager Xu Junnian said he felt it was important to preserve the vessel’s memory.
“The greatest significance of building this ship is to carry forward and inherit the great spirit of Titanic,” he said.
Aside from the enduring appeal of the Hollywood blockbuster, the Titanic has stolen headlines in China in recent weeks with the release of a new documentary called “The Six”.
The film tells the story of a group of Chinese travellers on board when the ship sinks, of whom six survived.
“We’d like to invite Jack, Rose and James Cameron to the inauguration ceremony,” Su said.