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Hollywood overboard?

Thanks to technology (and the Hollywood tradition of follow-the-leader), audiences may leave theaters a little waterlogged this summer.

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If you're heading to the movies this summer, you may want to bring a life jacket. A wave of Hollywood films with nautical themes will be crashing down on theaters, starting at the end of the month.

Along with all of the sequels and superheroes, swells of seafoam will tinge the big screen courtesy of a half-dozen or so films, including Pixar's 3-D fish tale "Finding Nemo," DreamWorks' "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," and Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean."

One reason for the tide of ocean films is the success of seafaring pictures such as "The Perfect Storm" in 2000 and "Titanic" in 1997. Another is technological advances that make it possible to leave audiences waterlogged for a fraction of the former cost. (The movies' budgets range from $60 million to $140 million, compared with $200 million for "Titanic.")

"The temptation [for studios] to rediscover this kind of storytelling is so great because the technology allows you to ... not make it look like it was filmed in a bathtub," says Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University in New York. " 'The Perfect Storm' and 'Titanic' were the dress rehearsals for the reemergence of this type of filmmaking. They were successful and demonstrated that it could be done well."

He says the trend reflects an industry follow-the-leader approach seen almost every year. (Remember "A Bug's Life" and "Antz," or "Dante's Peak" and "Volcano"?)

Hollywood also has released more family fare over the past several years, and most of these aquatic films are aimed at children. Stories about a journey or quest into the unknown - whether it's the high seas, faraway lands, or outer space - are beautiful to look at and appealing, especially to young people, says Jim Farrelly, a professor of English at University of Dayton in Ohio. "They offer an escape. It's an outgrowth of adventure-based films, like 'Lord of the Rings.' "


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