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James Cameron’s sequels to the highest grossing movie of all time have had a very long road to theaters. And the road just got longer. The first of a new trilogy of the Avatar franchise was set to release next year, but Twentieth Century Fox just pushed the next movie back. If you’re wondering how much longer you’ll have to wait to return to Pandora, so are we. No new release window has been set.
The plan has been that three new Avatar movies would be filmed back to back and then be released a year apart from each other. When the project was first announced, the plan for Avatar 2 was to be released this December, but that was then pushed into Christmas of 2017. The studio has not set a new release date, but one would guess a movie like this would be eyeing a summer 2018 date at the earliest.
The delay is officially the least surprising news in Hollywood this week. Earlier this week, Lucasfilm announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII was being pushed back to six months into December of 2017. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before this film got delayed. If Avatar 2 was released it would have put the two box office titans right up against each other. While that would have been an epic slugfest that would have been great to watch, it’s simply not likely. The two films would have been competing for screen space, especially at limited locations like IMAX theaters. The Wrap actually suggests that Disney probably expected the delay of Avatar which is why they made their move.
There’s also the possibility that Disney figured that with their current success with Star Wars: The Force Awakens they were in a great position to bigfoot their competition and scare away any other big films. While Avatar is still the highest grossing movie ever from a global perspective, The Force Awakens has since taken the domestic title, and with the time that’s passed since the first Avatar, it simply hasn’t remained a part of pop culture the way that Star Wars has.
Of course, predicting the delay of Avatar is not exactly rocket science. As much as James Cameron speaks of the new film trilogy as if it’s actually going to happen, the machine has been moving so slowly that if any forward progress is actually happening, it’s on a glacial scale. Cameron has admitted to having difficulties making three scripts work together seamlessly and we know he’ll be trying some sort of new experimental technology, because of course he will. The closest thing to a start date for production we had was an implication that filming would start this spring, which wasn’t going to work for Zoe Saldana because she’s set to work on Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2. at the same time. We know that Cameron has been working on the film, but it’s just been in perpetual pre-production. We’ve seen none of the signs we usually see when a movie begins to move forward.
One has to wonder if these movies will ever actually happen. The lack of specific release date, or even a window, makes things even more fluid than they’ve already been up to this point. The good news is, without a schedule, technically the movie can’t be delayed anymore.