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James Cameron isn't worried about his Avatar sequels taking back the throne from Avengers: Endgame. But he's not ignoring the idea, either. He's a blockbuster guy. He's not going sniff at something popular in the zeitgeist -- although he did say he hoped we'll soon "start getting Avenger fatigue." He's usually the guy making the popular thing in the zeitgeist. He's actively "trying" to do it again with the Avatar sequels, and if anyone can get lightning to strike a third time, it's the director who had back-to-back highest-grossing movies ever with Titanic and Avatar.
James Cameron has been busy since Avatar came out in 2009 and did pretty prettay good at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time and keeping that title for 10 years. However, Cameron hasn't directed any feature films since then. Avatar 2, which comes out in 2021, will be the next film that he directs.
Never mind Avengers: Endgame. How does James Cameron top his own success?
James Cameron reached out to congratulate Marvel Studios when Avengers: Endgame topped Titanic and then Avatar at the worldwide (unadjusted) box office. He recently said he was actually happy and hopeful to see Endgame top Avatar, since it's a good sign for movies in this modern streaming-centric marketplace. He makes movies for the big screen. The past few years have had record box office grosses (at least for Marvel/Disney/Lucasfilm movies) and that has James Cameron feeling encouraged for his Avatar sequels.
But does that mean his Avatar movies will have the kind of success the MCU has seen from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame? Here's what else James Cameron told Deadline about his sequels matching or topping the success of current record-holder Endgame:
Will Avatar 2 and 3 be able to create that kind of success in the zeitgeist? Who knows. We’re trying. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t, but the point is, it’s still possible. I’m happy to see it, as opposed to an alternate scenario where, with the rapid availability, custom-designed experience that everybody can create for themselves with streaming services and all the different platforms, that [theatrical potential] might not have existed anymore.
So they're trying, but no promises, and no heartbreak if he doesn't reclaim his throne as King of the World Box Office.
James Cameron focused on Avatar 2 and 3 in his comments, but he has plans for Avatar 4 and 5 too, and they all have release dates in the books -- 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in January 2019 that Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 were being developed but hadn't gotten the green light yet from Disney, which recently acquired 20th Century Fox. However, producer Jon Landau followed that by saying Iger's comments were probably misinterpreted and both Avatar 4 and 5 were not only greenlit, they had already filmed part of Avatar 4.
Most of the actors, the key principals, have all read all four scripts, so they know exactly what their character arcs are, they know where they’re going, they know how to modulate their arc now across the first two films. We all know where we’re supposed to be dramatically in the saga, and that’s great. Let’s face it, if Avatar 2 and 3 don’t make enough money, there’s not going to be a 4 and 5. They’re fully encapsulated stories in and of themselves. It builds across the five films to a greater kind of meta narrative, but they’re fully formed films in their own right, unlike, say, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, where you really just had to sort of go, 'Oh, shit, all right, well I guess I better come back next year.' Even though that all worked and everybody did.
If James Cameron had made those comments in 2019 instead of 2017, he might've used Avengers 3 and 4 as examples instead of Lord of the Rings.
Producer Jon Landau has also mentioned each Avatar sequel is a standalone movie, so you don't need to have seen Avatar to watch Avatar 2, and so on. Most of the moviegoing planet did see Avatar from 2009-2010, but a decade has gone by. I've been wondering if Disney might want to re-release Avatar again right before the opening of Avatar 2 to let a new generation see Avatar on the big screen for the first time. We'll see. It might also give Avatar a chance to beat Avengers: Endgame, since their totals are VERY close.
After a long wait, Avatar is currently scheduled for release in theaters on December 17, 2021. Here's what else we know so far about Avatar 2.