There are a handful of noteworthy 20th Century Fox franchise installments due to enter production in the next few months (at the time of writing this), in order to make their scheduled 2017 theatrical release dates. The list includes Kingsman 2, the sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s hit adaptation of Mark Millar’s spy adventure comic book; Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott’s sequel to his 2012 Alien movie prequel/spinoff, Prometheus; and Wolverine 3, the followup to both The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past – as well as the (alleged) final movie appearance for Hugh Jackman’s version of the eponymous X-Man.
Meanwhile, James Cameron remain on course to begin production on his Avatar sequel trilogy this spring too, even though 20th Century Fox has formally delayed the project from its previous projected December 2017 release date (after Disney and Lucasfilm moved Star Wars: Episode VIII to that same month). Currently, it appears that Avatar 2 in particular will start filming around the same time that the cameras start rolling on the third Wolverine solo film and the next Alien movie alike.
My Entertainment World (h/t CS) has reported the production start dates for several films, while at the same time confirming previously reported details about Fox’s slate of 2017 tentpoles – like, how Alien: Covenant is going to be filming in Sydney, Australia, when principal photography starts in April. Scott started looking at Australia as a potential filming location for the Prometheus sequel as far back as May 2014, though at the time it wasn’t clear if he planned to also shoot Blade Runner 2 on the continent thereafter.
Now however, Blade Runner 2 is set to begin filming in July in locations like the UK and Hungary, with Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) calling the shots while drawing from a script that Scott helped developed. In the meantime, Scott will direct Covenant from a script most recently revised by John Logan (Gladiator, Spectre) and with a cast that includes Michael Fassbender reprising his Prometheus role as the android David and Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs) as a brand new human character. However, Prometheus co-lead Noomi Rapace (who played the human scientist Elizabeth Shaw) apparently won’t have a major role (if any) in the new Alien movie, going by recent comments from Scott.
Wolverine 3, meanwhile, will enter production in New Orleans and New Mexico on April 25th of this year, according to My Entertainment World. The project reunites Jackman with The Wolverine director James Mangold for a storyline that might take some of its cues from the “Old Man Logan” comic book written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Steve McNiven – with obvious exceptions of course, since Fox only has the movie rights to certain Marvel characters featured in the “Old Man Logan” comic narrative. Jackman recently confirmed that he has received a “full script” for the project; so whatever the story is for this Wolverine romp, the broader strokes are set in stone at this stage in the film’s development.
Fox originally intended for Gambit, the X-Men movie spinoff starring Channing Tatum, to begin filming in New Orleans last year, but the project is now gearing up for a March start date after having gone through a change in director – from Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) to Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow). Wolverine 3 is currently scheduled for a March 2017 theatrical release date, but it’s not clear if the delay on Gambit will lead to a change in dates for Jackman’s latest (make that last?) trip to the X-Men cinematic universe too. It’s plausible that either Wolverine 3 or Gambit will ultimately move to August of 2017, since Fox currently does not have a major film penciled in for arrival that month; there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the summertime otherwise, as Fox has Kingsman 2 and War for the Planet of the Apes lined up to hit theaters in June and July of that year.
September of 2017 is also a possibility for either Wolverine 3 or Gambit, since Fox has yet to schedule a film for release that month; seeing as that frame is generally a weak one at the box office though, it seems unlikely that the studio would select the frame for something as lucrative as an X-Men movie. Then again, with more and more big studio movies being released throughout the year now, we may yet see Tatum’s “Ragin’ Cajun” hit the big screen in September. Similarly, Fox could decide to shift Wolverine 3 back to somewhere like the latter half of April 2017 to give it extra time for production and editing – assuming the studio doesn’t mind pitting Jackman’s superhero film against Fast 8 in theaters, anyway (and not too long before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits the scene). So maybe not, given the circumstances.
Avatar 2, by comparison, isn’t expected to reach theaters until 2018 now, as further evidenced by its reported April 15th, 2016 filming start date – which, bear in mind, is when Cameron will start shooting all three Avatar sequels one right after the other, so the turnaround in post-production on Avatar 2 will take all the longer as a result. The latest update on the project confirms that Cameron is going to film Avatar 2 (and its sequels) in New Zealand, with a cast that is confirmed to include the returning Avatar players Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, and Sigourney Weaver. How some of these cast members’ characters return has yet to be revealed of course, since details on the script that Cameron co-wrote with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) remain firmly under wraps.
Of course, by the time that Avatar 2 actually is ready to hit theaters, it will facing a very different sort of cinematic landscape than what its predecessor had to contend with (in terms of competition). That’s not to say we’d recommend betting against James Cameron at this stage in his career – but even by Cameron’s standards, he’s tasked himself and his collaborators with a rather daunting challenge on the Avatar sequels.
Deadpool hits theaters February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.
Alien: Covenant will open in U.S. theaters on October 6th, 2017. Avatar 2 does not currently have an official release date.