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James Cameron’s Billion-Dollar ‘Avatar’ Sequels Can Resume as New Zealand Gets Back to Work

May 9 marked the first day of no new coronavirus cases for the island nation, where the "Lord of the Rings" series and "Avatar" sequels were underway.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885988bd)Sam WorthingtonAvatar - 2009Director: James CameronTwentieth Century-Fox Film CorporationUSAScene Still

“Avatar”

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

New Zealand appears to have a firm hold on the COVID-19 situation, as Saturday, May 9 marks the first day the island country has reported no new cases. According to Deadline, some TV and film productions “are already safely underway,” as confirmed to the outlet by the New Zealand Film Commission. That means James Cameron’s “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3” could soon resume production, as well as Amazon’s mammoth “Lord of the Rings” series. In a world where quarantine shutdowns have brought film and television production to a screeching halt, New Zealand’s health protocols now enable sets to get back to work, albeit with safety guidelines.

“Avatar” director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau were in production on the first two of the four planned “Avatar” sequels when filming was suspended in the middle of March. Production has reportedly managed to continue virtually in California in collaboration with Weta Digital to create the film’s costly special effects. Production on the sequels is said to total more than $1 billion. Release dates for the 20th Century Studios films 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.

As shared via “Avatar” social media accounts, the ambitious shoot was well underway, with motion capture on the first two sequels already completed. See below. According to Deadline, no one from the team is yet known to be back in New Zealand.

Along with hope for the “Avatar” sequels to resume filming, Amazon’s big-budget “Lord of the Rings,” which was shooting in West Auckland, could also start rolling again. When production shut down in March, cast and crew were in the middle of filming the first two episodes, with director J.A. Bayona at the helm. A second season of the fantasy epic inspired by the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien already has the greenlight. IndieWire has reached out to Amazon for comment regarding when the shoot on “Lord of the Rings” might pick up again.

As of May 9, New Zealand has less than 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and only 20 deaths. The country managed to keep the virus at bay, at least relative to other places around the world, when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put in a strict national lockdown on March 23, a month after New Zealand’s first recorded case.

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