'Avatar' New Zealand: 3 Sequels in the Works, James Cameron Says

Image: 'Avatar' New Zealand: 3 Sequels in the Works, James Cameron Says Director James Cameron announces three "Avatar" sequels at a press conference on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, 16 Dec 2013 01:02 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Filmmaker James Cameron announced Monday he will film three sequels to his record-breaking "Avatar" in New Zealand.

The original "Avatar," which was shot in New Zealand and released in 2009, became the largest grossing movie of all time, making $2.78 billion worldwide. "Avatar's" profits outpaced No. 2 Titanic ($2.18 billion) and No. 3 "Marvel's The Avengers" ($1.51 billion).

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The Associated Press reported that the New Zealand government sweetened the pot for Cameron, agreeing to a 25 percent rebate for the films, meaning the government will pay for one-quarter of the moviemaker's tab.

Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox said in an agreement that they will spend at least $413 million in New Zealand on the movies, possibly leaving the New Zealand government with a $103 million bill.

"It's a day of great celebration," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said during a news conference with Cameron and producer Jon Landau. "It's a great Christmas present for those involved in making world-class movies."

New Zealand is seeing the winding down of Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" prequel trilogy, so Cameron's agreements will allow the country's motion picture industry to chug along.

New Zealand economic development minister Steven Joyce told Reuters in a statement that "Avatar" "will provide hundreds of jobs and thousands of hours of work directly" to the country's economy.

Cameron said at the announcement that he plans to wrap up principal shooting on the three movies at once, probably over a nine-month period beginning in 2015.

He plans to release the first "Avatar" sequel in time for Christmas 2016 and the following sequels in late 2017 and 2018, according to The Associated Press.

"It's quite a thrill to be officially saying that we're bringing the 'Avatar' films to New Zealand," Cameron said at the news conference. "We had such a wonderful experience here making the first film."

"Avatar" was nominated for nine Oscars and won three in 2010. Special effects were done at New Zealand's Weta Digital, which also worked on the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the "Hobbit" series.

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