James Cameron’s Titanic was an unprecedented box office smash when it hit theaters all the way back in 1997. The film also launched the careers of both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; ended up snagging a record eleven Academy Awards at the 1998 Oscars ceremony; and remains the second-highest grossing theatrical release of all time – behind Cameron’s other ultra-expensive must massively popular project, Avatar (ignoring inflation adjustments, of course ;-P).

Word got out last year that Cameron’s historical romance would (shockingly) be given a 3D theatrical re-release sometime in 2012 – and now an official release date has been set for the titular vessel’s return to the big screen.

Cameron and Michael Bay recently opened up about the current state (and future) of 3D cinema, a bit of filmmaking technology that the latter was vehemently opposed to at first – prior to his change of heart while making Transformers: Dark of the Moon. So Titanic will provide an opportunity for Cameron to prove what he preaches: that converting older films not originally conceived for the 3D format is actually a good idea.

Titanic 3D is scheduled for theatrical release on April 6th, 2012, in order to coincide with the 100th anniversary of both the actual Titanic’s maiden voyage (the ship set sail on April 10th, 1912) and the formation of Paramount Pictures.

That means Cameron’s original big-budget epic will actually hit theaters a few months after another late ’90s blockbuster returns to the big screen in theoretically glorious 3D – namely, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

Regardless of your feelings about the love story at the heart of Titanic, there’s no denying that it was a visually impressive epic when it first hit the scene back in 1997. The combination of (then) cutting-edge CGI and an actual, large-scale set that was constructed with meticulous attention to historical detail, worked to bring the famous sea vessel to life in an unprecedented fashion. However, while the practical sets and costumes of Titanic still hold up, nowadays the film’s digital imagery is noticeably dated and looks all the more distinctly “fake.” So will the movie as a whole look better or worse in 3D?

The Phantom Menace is arguably better positioned to benefit from the 3D format than Titanic, simply because so much of the Star Wars prequel is just CGI – and the conversion of digital visuals into 3D is both easier and more natural (since the images are already three-dimensional, essentially) than the same process for live-action 2D footage. On the other hand: Cameron will undoubtedly make sure the 3D version of Titanic looks as good as possible, and the cinematography of the historical epic is (generally speaking) innately more immersive than that of The Phantom Menace. Take that as you will.

To reiterate: Titanic 3D hits theaters on April 6th, 2012.

Source: Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox