When the news broke that Star Wars: Episode VIII was being delayed until Christmas 2017, many fans were concerned. Not only did it mean a few months longer to wait to find out what happens next, but it would also put the movie up against Avatar 2 at the box office.
It turns out there wasn't a need to worry, though; 20th Century Fox has confirmed to The Wrap that Avatar 2 won't be coming out around Christmas 2017, despite comments that were made last month by director James Cameron. Some are already decrying another delay on Avatar 2's part, but the actual story is a bit more complex.
Though Cameron made comments about "targeting the holiday season" with Avatar 2, Fox never set a release date for the film, and even Cameron pointed out that a 2017 release wasn't as important as having a structured release for all three of the upcoming Avatar films. This is actually a key part of the "delay" that many people are overlooking; Avatar 2 isn't being filmed as a single film, but is instead a part of a larger story that the filmmaker and studio wants to tell in a certain way. Fox won't actually set a date for Avatar 2 until it's certain that the release of Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 are also ready to be set.
When Cameron commented in December, he mentioned that scripts for the three films were still being worked on; this is because all three films are being planned as a single project. The stories are intertwined, and the three films would shoot at the same time using some of the most advanced technology in the film industry. There's never been a film shoot this large or this complicated, and because of the way that it's going to film there's no real way that Avatar 2 could have been ready for a 2017 release. Production on the three-film project hasn't even started yet.
This is good news for both fans of Star Wars and fans of Avatar. The way the Avatar sequels are shooting ensures it won't interfere with the release of Star Wars Episode VIII and that leaves plenty of time for Fox and Disney to find release dates that don't conflict between Star Wars Episode IX and whichever Avatar sequel might be slated for release in the same year. It also shows that Cameron and Fox aren't trying to rush the sequels into production, allowing their story to play out and tell the tale of Pandora that Cameron wants to tell.
Avatar certainly has its detractors, and they'll likely claim that this "delay" is a result of the latest failed attempt to get production underway. Everyone has different tastes, and Avatar is a divisive film in that it's the highest-grossing film of all time (globally, anyway; Star Wars: The Force Awakens claimed its crown as far as domestic gross goes) but hasn't had the major impact on science fiction that franchises like Star Wars or Star Trek have. There has only been one Avatar film released so far, but if Cameron pulls off his plans for the Avatar sequels, its impact on popular culture might change.
Star Wars Episode VIII is slated for release on December 15, 2017; it will be preceeded by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16, 2016 and followed by an untitled young Han Solo film in 2018, Star Wars Episode IX in 2019 and an untitled Boba Fett film in 2020.
Avatar 2, Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 do not have release dates as yet.
Source: The Wrap