James Cameron has started filming on the next four Avatar movies, which reportedly have a combined budget of over $1 billion. After years of delays, the sequels are finally moving forward. Cameron is returning to direct all four films, with a plan currently in place to film Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 back-to-back, followed up by Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 in the same fashion.
Despite doubts as to the franchise's ability to sustain four sequels, the potential rewards are there for Fox after the first grossed a record $2.8 billion worldwide. After that kind of success and Cameron's track record as a filmmaker, it's no surprise that a budget of that size would be in place for the four films.
Deadline is reporting that the combined budgets on the Avatar sequels - which started filming today - is over $1 billion. Should that estimate be distributed evenly across all four films, each will have a budget of more than $250 million on their own.
Film budgets are notoriously secret and rarely officially confirmed by the studios, so knowing how much they actually spend on individual films is difficult. Depending on which sources you believe, the original Avatar could have had a budget as low as $237 million according to Variety or for as much as $425 million according to The Numbers. Regardless of the reported budget, the first Avatar still managed to make a hefty profit.
Thankfully for Fox, a budget in the realm of $250 million per film seems to put them well within the range of turning a profit. Budgets of this size are now typical among effect-heavy Hollywood blockbusters, with Captain America: Civil War, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Hobbit trilogy, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens each having similarly large budgets. Each of those films made close to a billion dollars and proved to be profitable endeavors for the studio.
These sequels may lack the star power of other blockbusters, but still have ensembles that won't come cheap. However, most of this money will undoubtedly be spent in the visual department. In order for the sequels to truly recapture the interest of audiences, they need to surpass the groundbreaking visuals that the first film had. That is a high bar Cameron has set for himself, but as he's continued to prove time and time again, it's best not to bet against the acclaimed filmmaker.
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