After years of postponed release dates and production delays, James Cameron's Avatar franchise has finally locked down the arrival time for the 2009 blockbuster's four planned sequels, with plans to dole out the films over a six-year period.
"Great to be working with the best team in the business! Avatar takes flight as we begin concurrent production on four sequels," Cameron wrote on the Avatar Facebook page Saturday as preproduction ramped toward filming. "The journey continues December 18, 2020, December 17, 2021, December 20, 2024 and December 19, 2025!"
With the announcement of the Christmastime release dates, Avatar steps into the holiday box office market now firmly occupied by Star Wars and its anthology films, although the current trilogy concludes in 2019.
The sequel to the box office-crushing Avatar, still the highest-grossing film worldwide of all time, was initially scheduled to arrive around Christmas 2016 before it was pushed to Christmas 2017; in the interim, Cameron revealed that the saga would expand from three films to four.
In January 2016, 20th Century Fox again shifted Avatar 2 to Christmas 2018, even though it soon became clear that that release date was likely unattainable.
"Well, 2018 is not happening," Cameron admitted in a March interview. "What people have to understand is that this is a cadence of releases. So, we're not making Avatar 2, we're making Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5. It's an epic undertaking. It's not unlike building the Three Gorges dam. So I know where I'm going to be for the next eight years of my life. It's not an unreasonable time frame if you think about it."
Recently, Sigourney Weaver, who starred in the first Avatar, said that filming on the sequels would begin this year, a target echoed by Cameron.
"We're full tilt boogie right now. This is my day job and pretty soon we’ll be 24-7," Cameron said. "It's pretty exciting stuff. I wish I could share with the world. But we have to preserve a certain amount of showmanship and we're going to draw that curtain when the time is right."