Audience members yearning to return to the exotically extraterrestrial locale of Pandora will have to wait for at least three more years, as James Cameron has confirmed that the first of his back-to-back Avatar sequels won't arrive until Christmas of 2014.
While Cameron's original 3D sci-fi smash frequently changed release dates before it finally settled on December 2009, both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 are less likely budge from their still tentative winter holiday dates in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Entertainment Weekly spoke to Cameron, who told them "I am in the process of writing the next two 'Avatar' films now. We are planning to shoot them together and [edit them in post-production] together, and we will probably release them not quite back to back, but about a year apart." The filmmaker also teased about the return of some familiar faces, saying that "Basically, if you survived the first film, you get to be in the second film, at least in some form."
Cameron also revealed that a portion of the profits from Avatar 2 and 3 will be donated to "environmental causes that are at the heart of the 'Avatar' world." Considering that the first film pulled in over $2.7 billion at the global box office, that should amount to some significant coinage.
Producer Jon Landau previously spoke out about the Avatar sequels, confirming the news that Avatar 2 will explore the ocean of the Na'vi homeworld but won't amount to "an underwater movie", a la Cameron's The Abyss. Landau additionally implied that although the second two chapters in the franchise were being conceived simultaneously, the filmmakers won't follow in the footsteps of previous back-to-back sequels and end Avatar 2 on a cliffhanger that immediately leads into the third film.
Both Pandora and the other worlds of the Alpha Centauri AB system will be explored to some degree in the Avatar sequels, which look to deliver visual spectacle beyond that of even the original film - and hopefully a more creative narrative as well. Cameron has a good deal of freedom with respect to the possible storylines of Avatar 2 and 3 and look of not-yet glimpsed regions of the photo-realistic alien setting. Hopefully, the return trip to Pandora will be be worth all the time, effort, and money.
Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are essentially set to reprise their roles as Jake Sully and Neytiri, respectively, but it's not clear yet who else will be returning in Avatar 2 and/or Avatar 3 - much less what new stars will be signing on for the sci-fi sequels. We'll keep you updated on the status of both films as more information is released.