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James Cameron Hints ‘Avatar 3’ Could Be Last in Franchise if ‘Way of Water’ Tanks

"Maybe we’ll remind people what going to the theater is all about. The question is: how many people give a sh*t now?," the director said.

avatar way of water

“Avatar: The Way of Water”

20th Century Studios

Turns out you can even count James Cameron among the skeptics as to whether there’s enough interest in the “Avatar” franchise more than a decade removed from the original.

Though there a planned five total “Avatar” movies currently dated up through 2028 (!), Cameron in a new interview admitted the story could be tied up after “Avatar 3” should the next two movies underperform at the box office.

Cameron told Total Film that, depending on how the market responds to both this year’s “The Way of Water” and 2024’s “Avatar 3,” they could be “done” or “semi-done” to the point that he may try to “complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly,’ if it’s just not profitable.”

“We’re in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff, even,” Cameron said. “It’s the one-two punch – the pandemic and streaming. Or, conversely, maybe we’ll remind people what going to the theater is all about. This film definitely does that. The question is: how many people give a shit now?”

Total Film revealed that between all four “Avatar” films, the budget is a collective $1 billion. And Cameron revealed in a New York Times interview last month that while “Avatar 3” is already shot, only small portions of “Avatar 4” have been filmed, despite all the scripts written and mapped out for both the fourth and fifth entries (“everything’s designed,” he told the NYT, “so just add water”). But he’s optimistic that even with the ballooning cost, he’s delivering the goods.

“These are hideously expensive movies. It was a sketchy business case before the pandemic to make a movie that cost this much. At this point, we just have to play it out to see what happens. But what I know right now is: we’re delivering three hours of a pretty much insane experience,” he added to Total Film.

Cameron of course knows a thing or two about making sequels that arguably go above and beyond the original, including “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” And he told Total Film that part of approaching future “Avatar” films was to elevate the material while reminding audiences what was excellent about the original.

“The key to a sequel is to be surprising in ways that are not off-putting,” Cameron said. “To reconnect with the familiar that was fun and good, and that caused the first film to be a hit. But doing it in a way that’s unexpected, or that takes you someplace that’s unexpected.”

Avatar: The Way of Water” opens in theaters on December 16.

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