Ten years ago on December 18, 2009, 20th Century Fox opened James Cameron’s science-fiction epic “Avatar” in theaters nationwide. The movie rode a wave of interest in its groundbreaking 3D and motion capture technology to become the highest grossing film worldwide, a title it kept for a decade until it was surpassed this year by “Avengers: Endgame.” Cameron now has four “Avatar” sequels in the works. Ten years after the original, the first “Avatar” sequel is still two years away. “Avatar 2” was originally being eyed for 2014, but the added sequels and the new technology needed for extensive underwater sequences pushed the film back first to December 2020 and then to December 2021. Cameron now tells Variety the sequels are on track to hit their announced release dates.
“From 2013 until now we’ve mostly designed the whole world across four new movies. We’ve written, finished scripts for all four of those films. We’ve cast them, and we’ve [performance] captured movie 2, movie 3, and the first part of movie 4. We’re mostly done with the live action. I’ve got a couple months in New Zealand in the spring, so we’re kind of on track with what we set out to do.”
Cameron added, “People don’t really understand the scope and complexity of the process. It’s like making two and a half big animated films. A typical big animated film takes about four years, so, if you do the math on that, we’re kind of right on schedule for December 2021.”
Per Cameron’s update, all of the motion capture on the first two “Avatar” sequels has been completed. Additional live-action photography will be filmed in the spring, similar to how any big studio tentpole would film reshoots several months ahead of a theatrical release. The big takeaway is that Cameron has already started working on the performance capture for the fourth “Avatar” sequel. While Cameron has made his intention clear to make four “Avatar” sequels, he did tell Vanity Fair in November 2017, “Let’s face it, if ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘3’ don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a ‘4’ and ‘5.’” It looks like “Avatar 4” is well under way in terms of production.
The release date for the “Avatar” sequels are as follows: “Avatar 2” on December 17, 2021; “Avatar 3” on December 22, 2023; “Avatar 4” on December 19, 2025; “Avatar 5” on December 17, 2027.