James Cameron has been promising Avatar sequels since the first movie broke box office records, received rave reviews (84% on Roten Tomatoes) and earned accolades galore back in 2009. Eight years and many release date shifts later, the visionary writer/director has finally begun filming not just one but four follow-up features, all being shot in succession. The quartet of presumably cutting-edge 3D movies kicked off production in a Manhattan Beach studio yesterday, according to Deadline.
Four installments shooting simultaneously hasn’t been done before. Peter Jackson did three with his Lord of the Rings trilogy and multiple franchises have tried two at once, but this is an unprecendented effort — leave it to Cameron to be groundbreaking every which way. Also supposedly unprecedented is the $1 billion budget for the multi-sequel production. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 has been rumored to collectively cost $1 billion for the two sequels, but that’s not confirmed.
Nothing has been officially revealed about what we can expect story-wise from Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5, but we do know most of the original’s cast members are returning for all of them. Including Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and even Stephen Lang, who — spoiler alert — seemed to die in the first movie (these days it’s pretty hard to keep a movie character dead). The newcomers joining them include Oona Chaplin and Cliff Curtis.
Although filming together, the sequels will not all be released that close together. Avatar 2 hits theaters on December 18, 2020, followed by Avatar 3 on December 17, 2021. Then Avatar 4 doesn’t arrive until December 20, 2024, with Avatar 5 finally coming out (and concluding the franchise?) on December 19, 2025.