'Titanic' on video -- We staked out a Manhattan video store for the September 1st release of the epic blockbuster

By Joshua Rich
Updated September 11, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT


  • Movie

Titanimaniacs, your ship has come in. To video stores, that is. James Cameron’s $600 million-grossing epic officially hit the shelves Sept. 1 in a special two-cassette boxed set. And based on presale figures of one million copies, 4,000 Blockbuster Video stores opted to keep their doors open an additional two hours (until 2 a.m.), offering the tapes at a midnight start time. Just who queued up? Here are the results of a store stakeout on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

11:24 p.m. Father-daughter team Gene Wisoff, who gives his age as ”almost dead,” and Doralyn, ”almost 14,” set up foldout chairs for the wait. ”The last time I was first on line was when we were trying to get Doralyn into a [good school],” says Wisoff.

11:35 p.m. Vivian Natal, 30, takes this group’s prize for seeing the film the most times: 10. She plans to watch it at least once when she gets home.

11:40 p.m. Billie June Ox, who gives her age as ”old enough,” arrives in a wheelchair with her German shepherd Dorrie (70 in dog years). Astoundingly, neither Ox nor Dorrie has seen Titanic.

11:55 p.m. As people wait, Doralyn puts a hush over the (albeit small) crowd with her chilling rendition of ”My Heart Will Go On.”

11:58 p.m. Suddenly, an ambulance pulls up and emergency medical technician Sam Balmelli, 25, steps out to wait in line. ”I know I’m going to get in trouble for doing this,” he says, ”but what the hell.”

12:01 a.m. In an eerie echo of the film’s first-class-versus-steerage onslaught, a group of teenagers’ line-cutting attempt is thwarted.

12:04 a.m. Dorrie becomes the first canine to get her paws on a Titanic video.

12:58 a.m. Still another hour left, but no new customers are in sight. (The next day Blockbuster announces that it sold its one millionth copy at a store in Mesquite, Tex.) Staffers continue the arduous task of stocking videos. For them, it’s been at least an hour to remember.

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  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 194 minutes