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James Cameron forced to finish Avatar 3 after making too much money

A cautionary tale about making $1.5B at the box office

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Lo’ak the Na’vi touches a tulkun, a whalelike creature, in the sea of Pandora in Avatar: The Way of Water Image: 20th Century Studios
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Filmmaker James Cameron, now having made more than $1.5 billion — and finally “breaking even” — with Avatar: The Way of Water at the international box office, is now stuck completing Avatar 3, a film he has already shot. He’s also probably forced to make Avatar 4 and 5 too! Speaking with interviewer Chris Wallace in this week’s episode of Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? (answer: James Cameron), the director lamented that “it looks like I can’t wiggle out of this; I’m gonna have to do these other sequels.”

That’s hardly a surprise, given that Cameron and Disney have planned a total of four Avatar sequels. But Cameron, in the lead-up to The Way of Water’s release, has also called his franchise “very fucking [expensive]” and given himself an out, saying that if sequels to a 13-year-old movie couldn’t find an audience, that five-film saga could instead be wrapped up in three.

Speaking to Wallace, Cameron said this week, “It looks like, just with the momentum that the film has now, that we’ll easily pass our break-even in the next few days, actually, so it looks like I can’t wiggle out of this; I’m gonna have to do these other sequels. So I kind of know what I’m going to be doing the next six or seven years.”

Cameron also implied that his comments about Avatar: The Way of Water’s break-even point were mischaracterized, and that the movie didn’t necessarily need to surpass $2 billion at the global box office to eke out a profit. “Just to clarify, I never actually gave it a number,” he said. “I said it has to be in the top handful of highest-grossing films in history, and somebody else applied that number and it got picked up. The number’s actually less.” (He also declined to share the actual number.)

The point, Cameron said, is that “we’re going to be OK.”

“I’m sure that we’ll have a discussion soon with with the top folks at Disney about the game plan going forward for Avatar 3, which is already in the can,” Cameron said. “We’ve already captured and photographed the whole film, so we’re in kind of extended post-production […] to do all that CG magic. And then Avatar 4 and 5 are both written. We even have some of 4 in the can. [...] We can safely say we’ve begun a saga that can now play out over multiple films.”

Avatar 3 — which may be titled Avatar: The Seed Bearer — is scheduled to hit movie theaters on Dec. 20, 2024. The third movie in Jake Sully’s big blue adventure will introduce movie lovers to the fiery side of the Na’vi: the “Ash People.” Cameron told French outlet 20 Minutes, via Total Film, that he wants to show the Na’vi from another angle “because, for the moment, I have only shown their good sides.”

Cameron noted that “the last parts” of his Avatar story will be the best: “The others were an introduction, a way to set the table before serving the meal.” Hope you’re hungry!

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