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How many Avatar movies can James Cameron make? The answer is is probably "as many as he wants," because James Cameron has oodles of money after not just the massive success of the first film, but the licensing of the technology he used to make it. Ever since Avatar came out four long years ago in 2009 Cameron has been promising more movies set in that world, first one sequel, then two, and then at one point he started hinting at three of them-- the number seemed to change based on Cameron's mood.
Now he's finally committed to a number, and yes, we're getting three more. THR reports that Fox has announced release dates for three more Avatar movies, which will Cameron will shoot simultaneously when production starts next year. Avatar 2 is set for release in December of 2016, with the next two to follow in the same month of 2017 and 2018. Cameron proved that December could be serious blockbuster territory when Titanic opened just before Christmas in 1997, and he did it again with Avatar's December debut in 2009. Even more appropriately, Avatars 2-4 will be filmed in the same New Zealand studios where Peter Jackson made his Hobbit movies in a similarly grueling fashion, shooting all three simultaneously. Jackson has even joked that he's prepping his crew for the famously tyrannical Cameron's arrival. The Hobbit movies have sewn up December for last year, this year, and 2014; after a one-year break, another massive trilogy filmed in New Zealand will take over.
What will happen in Avatar 2? Again, it depends on who you ask, and at what point. Cameron has dropped varying hints about it for years, but we probably can't count on anything said before The Sarah Connor Chronicles veteran Josh Friedman was hired to write the Avatar 2 script… and that was yesterday. Friedman will collaborate with Rise of the Planet of the Apes veterans Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and Armageddon's Shane Salerno on the script for all three films, which sounds like the craziest job this side of trying to jump inside a Na'vi brain and colonize a distant planet.
The four years since Avatar premiered have felt very, very long, bringing us constant innovations in motion-capture filmmaking and 3D effects that have made both technologies feel a little less revolutionary, and the thinness of Avatar's story and themes more glaring. Can three more movies set on Pandora recapture our imaginations the way the first one did? Logically, you'd say no-- Avatar had its moment, and that moment is gone. But James Cameron has routinely played by his own insane rules, over and over again making films that seemed impossible or ridiculous and turning them into gigantic hits. When he makes movies, he makes them specifically so they can become the biggest of all time. And you'd better believe he, at least, has all the confidence that three more Avatars can pull that off.