It seems that the days of being cautious about sequel plans are far behind us, with Warner Bros. and Marvel both announcing five-year plans for their superhero franchises, a whole map of Star Wars sequels and spinoffs in development, and Lionsgate snagging release dates for two Divergent sequels months ahead of the first film's release. Not to be left out, James Cameron is currently working on three Avatar sequels simultaneously, with plans to release the movies in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Cameron is at least delegating writing duties this time, with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) penning Avatar 2, Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) writing Avatar 3 and Shane Salerno (Savages) working on Avatar 4. The films will be shot back-to-back and are rumored to have a collective production budget of around $1 billion (!).
It'll be worth it, according to Cameron in a new interview with Empire. When asked about the storylines of the upcoming films, the director responded jovially, "They’re gonna be b***hin’. You will s**t yourself with your mouth wide open." Rather than simply handing off writing duties to each of the screenwriters with a basic story framework, the initial story development process was collaborative and involved Cameron sitting down with all four writers to work on the plots for all the sequels.
“I think we met for seven months and we whiteboarded out every scene in every film together, and I didn’t assign each writer which film they were going to work on until the last day. I knew if I assigned them their scripts ahead of time, they’d tune out every time we were talking about the other movie."
Back in 2011 there was talk of Cameron planning to film the Avatar sequels at 60 frames per second, which would take the films another step closer to looking like video games. Shooting at higher framerates isn't yet universally accepted as a good idea, since 48fps screenings of the Hobbit films have led to complaints of headaches and motion sickness from some audience members. Nonetheless, Cameron has now set his sights on 48fps and intends to shoot the sequels at that framerate.
"My thinking at the time was that 60 [FPS] might be a better segue to the video market. I’ll be plugging into a system that’s a little more mature, so it makes sense for me to do 48 frames at this point."
Cameron is currently working on the Avatar sequels in North Island, New Zealand, and has a growing relationship with The Hobbit director Peter Jackson and his writing team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. In fact, Cameron revealed that the line "I see you," from a scene towards to end of Avatar, was included after being suggested by someone from the Hobbit team.
The Hobbit trilogy concludes this year with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and next year Star Wars Episode VII will be taking up the December tentpole release slot. If the future Star Wars sequels ending up being released at the same time of year, we could be in for a pretty epic box office battle of the sci-fi movie franchises.
Avatar 2 is set for release in December 2016, with Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 following in 2017 and 2018.