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Avatar 2 has been delayed, possibly for years

For a brief, shining moment, it appeared that December 2017 was going to be the most epic month in the history of Hollywood, at least in terms of box office. Sadly, a delay to Avatar 2 has derailed that.

It was going to be nuts. In one corner you would have had Star Wars: Episode VIII, which was recently delayed from May 2017 to December. That would have put it head-to-head with Avatar 2, which was also set for Christmas 2017 (although a specific date wasn’t given).

The Force Awakens isn’t done at the box office yet, and so far it has earned over $1.8 billion, making it the third highest grossing film of all time. It may end up passing Titanic’s $2.18 billion and take over second place, but most don’t think it has enough juice to pass Avatar’s $2.78 billion for first.

Still, sequels to the third highest grossing film of all time (maybe second), and the highest grossing film of all time opening in the same month would be crazy.

And the merchandise sales… sweet gods, the merchandise sales.

It would have been the Thunderdome of box office months. The advertising alone would be so intense that people would probably be dreaming ads for each movie while sleeping on Star Wars sheets before waking up to the sounds of their Avatar alarm clocks.

But alas, fans of spectacle will have to find something else to focus on that month, as Avatar 2 has been delayed. Fox hasn’t offered a new release date, nor did it give a specific reason for the delay.

Given the news, it’s probably no surprise that Episode VIII moved to December 2017. Disney and Lucasfilm probably aren’t afraid of competition, but they aren’t dumb either. They now own Christmas 2017.

In some ways, it’s really no surprise. Avatar 2 has been delayed several times already. The films are still in pre-production and James Cameron is working on them full time, but one of the big issues seems to be the timing.

Cameron isn’t just making Avatar 2, he is making Avatar 2, 3, and 4, and the plan is to film them all at once. Once they are complete, Fox plans to release all three exactly one year apart. It is a hugely complicated shoot, made even more so by the massive amount of special effects these films will use. Everything needs to be planned, thought out, re-thought out, then ran by several teams to make sure it is all doable.

Delays aren’t surprising in the least.

Shooting was expected to begin this spring, but that seems unlikely given the rather nebulous state of the movie. A delay may also may present other problems with scheduling, serious problems. Sam Worthington is currently filming three other projects at the moment, and Zoe Saldana’s workload may be even more demanding.

Saldana is currently scheduled to begin at least two films in the first half of 2017, including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Although it’s still somewhat unconfirmed, it is expected that the Guardians will appear and play a significant role in The Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1, and Part 2, and those films will also be shot-back-to-back, beginning in November 2016.

Given that it is three movies, the Avatar shoot alone may as long as a year (although maybe less given how much will be shot in a studio against a green screen). The others won’t be quick shoots either – and that’s always assuming Star Trek’s publicity tour doesn’t get in the way.

Sigourney Weaver is also set to appear in all three films (although her role isn’t quite clear following her character’s fate in Avatar), and she is constantly active. She has at least two films coming out in 2016 already, and is currently filming another for 2017.

Those scheduling concerns may push filming for Avatar into early-to-mid 2017. Given that Cameron and Fox both want all three films out in three years, that could push the release a year or more.

Cameron could always design the shoot around Saldana’s schedule – there is plenty of other footage to shoot – but he is generally considered to be a demanding director. He may not appreciate losing one of his stars for months at a time.

On the plus side, Cameron knows what he is doing. If he delays a film, it’s probably no big deal. Besides, Cameron’s last update on the Avatar films was that they will be so good, you will “shit your pants.”

On top of that, the first Avatar is far and away the highest grossing movie of all time, and Cameron himself is responsible for the top two highest grossing films ever. If he wants a little more time, you can bet Fox will give it to him. It could mean a delay of years though.

So now Fox will probably start looking for a new release window, but odds are they will wait until Cameron is a little further along to set one.

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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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