Certain circles of the film community are wondering who's eager to see four sequels to James Cameron's Avatar, but the followups are arriving at the perfect time for the Star Wars franchise. Ever the perfectionist, Cameron took his time time developing brand new technology for his return trips to Pandora, and 11 long years will have passed between the premieres of the original and the first sequel, rumored to be titled The Way of Water. As many have pointed out, the Hollywood landscape has drastically changed over the past decade, leaving some to wonder where Avatar fits in the hierarchy.
Of course, one of the biggest developments in the post-Avatar world was Disney's surprise acquisition of Lucasfilm and the rebirth of the Star Wars film series. Pulling a page straight out of the Cameron playbook, the Mouse House took advantage of the lucrative Christmas window, earning more than $4 billion worldwide between The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi. Even with the stumbling of this summer's Solo, Star Wars remains a highly profitable brand, and Disney is set to reap the benefits of J.J. Abrams' Episode IX next December. But with Bob Iger planning a slowdown of Star Wars cinematic releases after 2019, the galaxy far, far away will be very happy to see Jake Sully and company come back.
Avatar 2 Won't Be A Star Wars Rival
It certainly helps that Avatar 2 and any future Star Wars movies will fall under the same umbrella moving forward. As most people know, Disney is in the process of purchasing 20th Century Fox, and the deal will officially close come January 2019 - well before Avatar 2's 2020 release date. Obviously, a majority of the current discussion has been about how this will impact the X-Men movie franchise, but Avatar is yet another lucrative property Disney is set to acquire - and they'll surely have big plans for Pandora. The studio already has a vested interest in Avatar's continued success thanks to the World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom. While some announced Fox projects might be axed, the Avatar sequels are definitely moving forward.
There are clear concerns about one media conglomerate owning so much of the entertainment industry, but Star Wars will benefit from this turn of events. Before the Disney/Fox deal, Star Wars and Avatar were jockeying for position on the release calendar. Remember, at one point, Cameron was eyeing a December 2017 bow for the first Avatar followup, but those plans changed when Lucasfilm shifted The Last Jedi there. Now, however, the two epic space franchises won't be in competition with each other and most assuredly will not square off head-to-head at the box office.
Understanding the value of both investments, Disney will want to maximize their respective profits and put them in a position where they can thrive. Typically, the studio is quite savvy about spacing out their various tentpoles so each one has a nice time period to itself. Just this year, Infinity War (April) made $2 billion, Incredibles 2 (June) crossed $1 billion, and Ant-Man and the Wasp (July) made $622 million worldwide. Solo was a flop, but Disney learned a lesson from that situation, and ideally that'll be a fluke, rather than a harbinger of things to come.
In essence, Avatar becomes one less problem for Lucasfilm to worry about, and so far they've enjoyed a peaceful coexistence with Disney's other properties. Disney will have to pull off quite a balancing act to make it all work, but so far there's no reason to believe they'll fail at it. Even though Star Wars is going to go on a (brief) hiatus from theaters, the galaxy far, far away will still be present in other platforms, including live-action television (streaming service Disney+ will be home to two separate series), so fans will still be able to get their fix, following new stories and characters. And as Kathleen Kennedy (who recently extended her contract) plots the course of the future, there's less pressure on her to crack the perfect formula.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Avatar 2 (2020) release date: Dec 18, 2020
- Avatar 3 (2021) release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Avatar 4 (2024) release date: Dec 20, 2024
- Avatar 5 (2025) release date: Dec 19, 2025