The Avatar Sequels' Budget Sounds Absolutely Wild

Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington in 2009's Avatar
(Image credit: (Fox))

For a decade, James Cameron’s Avatar was the highest-grossing movie of all time, until Avengers: Endgame dethroned the sci-fi epic last spring. In anticipation for repeated success for the franchise moving forward, the filmmaker has four sequels in the works with 20th Century Studios. Cameron is currently in the thick of filming Avatar 2 and 3 back-to-back ahead of their planned releases in 2021 and 2023.

Avatar earned $2.79 billion back in 2009 off a reported production budget of around $237 million, per Box Office Mojo. Well, the coming sequels will evidently cost over $1 billion, according to Deadline. Alright, did they actually build Pandora? That budget sounds absolutely bonkers. Now the numbers are not specific about how many sequels are being lumped into that number, but James Cameron has four planned out.

By simple math, each Avatar sequel would then cost about $250 million each. That is very much in the neighborhood of the original Avatar and tentpole blockbusters from the Avengers, Harry Potter, The Hobbit and Dark Knight franchises. Unless that's somehow only for the first two sequels?

Avatar is now under the umbrella of Disney, and the studio has had its share of astronomical budgeted films. 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was the most expensive film ever made at $397 million, and 2012 flop John Carter cost the studio $263 million to make. Back in 2017, Fox Chairman and CEO claimed the upcoming Avatar sequels would be “the most expensive movies of all time.”

Avatar 2 and 3 were in the middle of production in New Zealand before global health concerns sent James Cameron and the Avatar cast and crew packing. Cameron has continued to work on virtual production on his big-budget sequels in Los Angeles and Weta Digital. He is confident the movies can continue sooner than later thanks to New Zealand’s hold on the health crisis. Here’s his recent update:

On the bright side, New Zealand seems to have been very effective in controlling the virus and their goal is not mitigation, but eradication, which they believe that they can do with aggressive contact tracing and testing. So there's a very good chance that our shoot might be delayed a couple of months, but we can still do it. So that's good news.

Another silver lining is the fact that James Cameron is still on schedule for the Avatar sequels in a time when a lot of release dates are being pushed back and shuffled around. It should come to no surprise that Avatar is on the expensive side considering the filmmakers plans to work with higher frame rates and implement motion capture while underwater.

Avatar 2 is currently set for December 17, 2021, with the third film coming in December 2023, Avatar 4 for December 2025 and Avatar 5 for December 2027. Are you excited to see James Cameron’s vision for the franchise? Vote in our poll below.

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.