Skip to main content

James Cameron Is Making A Big Budget Spectacle With Avatar 2. What’s An Extra ‘$5 Million’ Here Or There?

Kate Winslet's Ronal and Sam Worthington's Jake Sully surrounded by other Na'vi in Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Some filmmakers have trouble obtaining just the right amount of money to bring their cinematic vision to life, and then there are the filmmakers who have no issue accessing funds. James Cameron falls into the latter camp, as evidenced by how he spent $200 million to make 1997’s Titanic, followed by the roughly $237 million he poured into Avatar. Cameron’s work will next be on display in the upcoming movie Avatar: The Way of Water, and when it comes to these bid budget spectacles, the director has admitted he isn’t shy with throwing in an extra “$5 million” here and there if the situation calls for it. 

During an interview with The Times (opens in new tab), James Cameron was asked about the secret to his success, and the filmmaker mentioned that he doesn’t allow money to be an obstacle when it comes to delivering the best movie possible, saying:

I don’t know. I don’t make any decisions on movies thinking, ‘That will be worth an extra $5 million.’ You just follow your nose as a storyteller — you can’t deconstruct the gross.

You know you’ve made it big in Hollywood when you can spend an extra $5 million on a movie and the studio doesn’t bat an eye. That amount of money would be enough to put together a small feature, but for a blockbuster like Avatar: The Way of Water, that’s just a tiny fraction of the necessary resources to put the final product together. Still, considering all the stellar movies James Cameron has churned out over the years, including the first two Terminator movies and Aliens, as well Avatar retaking its title as the highest-grossing movie of all time, it makes sense why Disney/20th Century Studios would be fine with adding $5 million, if not more, to the Avatar 2 production budget if it means improving the chances of the sequel being a box office success.

Back in 2020, it was reported that the collective budget of the four Avatar sequels adds up to $1 billion, meaning that each movie’s budget would cost around $250 million. That’s not quite at the level of blockbusters Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and the latter three Avengers movies, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. Plus, considering James Cameron latest comment and how long it’s taken for Avatar: The Way of Water to come together, I wouldn’t be surprised if that amount has increased over the last two years. You can get a taste of what that money was used for by watching the Avatar 2 trailer below:

Taking place more than a decade after the events of Avatar (which is returning to theaters this weekend), Avatar: The Way of Water sees Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully, Zoe Saldaña’s Neytiri and their children, dealing with the return of Stephen Lang’s Miles Quaritch, who was killed in the first movie, but has been resurrected, in a sense, as a Recombinant, a Na'vi Avatar embedded with a soldier’s memories. The Avatar 2 cast also includes Sigourney Weaver playing one of Jake and Neytiri’s daughters, CCH Pounder, Kate Winslet, Edie Falco, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Yeoh and Vin Diesel, among many others. 

Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on December 16, and the following three sequels are respectively dated for December 20, 2024, December 18, 2026 and December 22, 2028. Learn what cinematic entertainment awaits next year with our 2023 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.