The Real Reason The Avatar Sequels Are Taking So Long

Jake Sully and Neytiti in Avatar

It’s been close to nine years since audiences were introduced to the world of Pandora in Avatar, and the first of four sequels is still over two years away. Why is it taking so long for James Cameron to follow up the biggest film of all time?

A CGI-laden sci-fi epic that soon became the highest grossing film of all time, Avatar was considered a game-changer at the time, one that lay the foundations for the special effects heavy franchise blockbusters of today. Quickly after that flush of success - with a whopping $2.788bn in the bank - Cameron and Fox announced two sequels to the movie. Hardly surprising given Cameron had been talking about plans to make the film a franchise if the first one was successful enough all the way back in 2006. That sequel number soon expanded to four but filming on the projects themselves was slow to happen. Shooting days were set, then delayed shortly after repeatedly.

Read More: How Disney Buying Fox Could Affect the Avatar Sequels

Now, however, the first two Avatar sequels are finally in the production stages, which kicked off last Summer; originally scheduled for 2014 and 2015, Avatar 2 and 3 will now premiere in December 2020 and 2021. That date could change (especially as Avatar may change hands from Fox to Disney), but for now, this is the most solid indication of a release schedule we’ve had for the franchise since its announcement.

This Page: Is The Avatar Sequel Delay Actually A Problem?

While all this ultimately means we are getting Avatar sequels, they're coming incredibly late in the game. At over a decade between films, that's longer than between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. Many feel like the movie’s franchise possibilities - and it's position as a cultural landmark - has already passed. So why did it take so long?

Is The Avatar Sequel Delay A Problem?

James Cameron Avatar Set

The question of whether there's much hope for the Avatar sequels and whether or not audiences are all that excited for more of this world has been a prominent one over the years, but specifically on the industry level the sheer length of time it’s taking to get these films made is striking. This is a business that lives or dies on chasing the popular thing of the day, and audiences can be notoriously fickle. You can risk rushing out a product to meet that fleeting demand and making a bad movie, or you can take your time and miss the buzz altogether. These are issues that Fox may have worried about when it came to their Avatar hopes, and even a potential studio change and lifespan extension via theme parks, that's only become more pointed with time.

Yet James Cameron has always managed to soar over the shop talk of mere studios and executives. As one of the few directors in the industry who can essentially do whatever he wants, he has decided to take his time with the Avatar sequels and not be rushed by distributor demands or what is considered the cool thing of the day. Audiences are used to getting several films and TV shows a year from their favorite franchise, so Cameron being so deliberately slow with his makes it something of an anomaly in Hollywood.

Related: Why the Avatar Sequels Are Worth Their $1 Billion Budget

Of course, that's always been the case. Whether it was Terminator 2: Judgement Day, or Titanic, or the original Avatar, Cameron's passion projects have always been treated as suspect by Hollywood - expensive follies destined to bomb. And each time, he's proven that wrong, delivering revered crowdpleasers that rank as some of the biggest movies ever and muscle into serious awards discussion. To bet against Avatar 2 under any circumstances (remember that the first movie took well over a decade too to come together, hence shooting the sequels back-to-back) is foolish.

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Key Release Dates
  • Avatar 3 (2023) release date: Dec 22, 2023
  • Avatar 4 (2025) release date: Dec 19, 2025
  • Avatar 5 (2027) release date: Dec 17, 2027
  • Avatar 2 (2021) release date: Dec 17, 2021
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