In a move that will surprise no one, James Cameron’s Avatar 2 is being pushed back to an unknown date in the aftermath of Star Wars: Episode VIII’s move to December 15, 2017.
Via The Wrap, the sequel to the highest grossing film of all time will not be ready for a holiday 2017 release. Previously, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, the stars of the original film, had signed a three-picture deal with Cameron and 20th Century Fox in 2014 for a planned trilogy of Avatar films Cameron intended to shoot back-to-back-to-back. The sequel was also originally planned for a Christmas release this year before being pushed back to Christmas 2017. Even with those plans, though, a script was never finished or production start finalized.
What makes this move so intriguing is Cameron and Fox’s recent comments in the last several months that everything was on track for a 2017 release. However, Cameron has spoken at length about the ambitious nature of the Avatar sequels, exploring some of Pandora’s moons and even underwater cultures. Its quite possible the scope of Cameron’s vision is one of the reasons for the delay, particularly when its considered how much the director works to push the envelope in terms of technology and how notorious underwater sequences can be to film. Just ask Kate Winslet about her difficult time filming Titanic.
Another factor that could have impacted Avatar 2’s release is the busy schedule of Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana. Worthington has several movies set to be in production over the next few years and Saldana will be more than busy with both the Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy/Marvel franchises, especially in the lead up to Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2. The busy schedules of Avatar’s main leads would certainly be a problem for the next three films in its franchise.
Star Wars: Episode VIII’s change of release date would have been the final straw for Fox. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens has not (yet) beaten Avatar’s total box office, it has gotten near its record in a third of the time it took for Avatar. Fox would also undoubtedly want as many IMAX screens as possible for its sequel, a fact that would be hard when Episode VIII will most likely take the majority of IMAX screens as well. For now, it is unclear when Avatar 2 and its sequels will ever go into production, but only time will tell.