How 'Avatar 2' Will Make Box Office History

News Corp, Viacom, and Disney will continue to battle for box office supremacy.

James Cameron recently revealed new details on Avatar 2, 3, & 4, Credit: News Corp, Wikipedia.

"Hi Reddit. Jim Cameron here to answer your questions."

So began a fantastic dialog last week between fans and the famed writer-director. Cameron initiated the thread in advance of the April 13 premier of Years of Living Dangerously, his new nine-part documentary on climate change. But it was lost on no one they were talking to the man behind the two highest-grossing films of all time -- Avatar and Titanic. 

In fact, Cameron's work comprises the only two films to ever exceed the $2 billion mark worldwide -- News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWS  ) subsidiary 20th Century Fox enjoyed a $2.78 billion haul from Avatar in 2009, while Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA  ) Paramount racked up $2.19 billion from Titanic in 1997. Meanwhile, The Walt Disney Company's  (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel's The Avengers currently remains a distant third with "just" $1.52 billion.

It seems safe, then, to bet Cameron knew he'd end up fielding more than his fair share of questions about his planned sequel, three-quel, and four-quel to Avatar -- yep, you read that right -- which he previously confirmed are slated for their respective releases in December 2016, 2017, and 2018. 

Cameron didn't disappoint, candidly covering everything from Disney's efforts to bring bring Pandora to life at Walt Disney World, to chances one fan could score a role playing a plant in Avatar 2 ("Sure!" he wrote, "But you might have to learn how to stick your tongue out about 14 feet.").

Perhaps most intriguing, however, were Cameron's details on both the progress and production schedules of each new Avatar film. Specifically, he stated:

The second, third and fourth films all go into production simultaneously. They're essentially all in preproduction now, because we are designing creatures, settings, and characters that span all three films. And we should be finished with all three scripts within the next, I would say, six weeks.

Of course, this approach isn't particularly new. Fellow writer-director Peter Jackson, for example, implemented simultaneous production schedules to complete both his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. And even with one Hobbit film yet to be released late next year, Jackson's first five efforts have seen great success, yielding nearly $4.9 billion in gross box office receipts.

On intentions and wonderment

So, will James Cameron's next three Avatar films be able to live up to what's already the world's most successful movie?

I think so, but with two big caveats.

Avatar 2 can't be about money, and needs to capture our imaginations, Credit: News Corp.

First, whether Avatar 2, 3, and 4 can succeed anywhere near on the same level as their predecessor will hinge on the world's perception of why Cameron is creating them in the first place. Surely both he and News Corp. stand to make spaceboat-loads of money from the sequels, but if that appears to be the primary motivator, general audiences and die-hard Avatar fans alike could take notice and revolt.

Fortunately, when asked that very question in the Reddit thread, Cameron insisted Avatar's success did play a role, but not in the way you might think:

[T]he positive feedback for Avatar and the support of the message of Avatar, encouraged me to do more of those films. For me, the success was a factor because I was encouraged by the fact that an environmental film, or a film about nature, could be successful. It's certainly not just about money. I'm considering success to mean the measure of the ability of the film to communicate.

Second, remember the first Avatar captured movie-goers' imaginations not only with its environmentally friendly ambitions, but also through its portrayal of a jaw-dropping, beautiful alien world punctuated by cutting-edge technology. The next three films will need to match this wonderment to once again make box office history. Sure enough, Cameron elaborated on his motivations:

Every director wants their film to communicate. The biggest factor, however, is the drive to continue developing the world -- more characters, more creatures with unfettered creativity.

That meshes with Cameron's comments last summer when he first announced he was making not two, but three more Avatar films. At the time, he noted he had come to realize "Avatar's world, story, and characters have become even richer than I anticipated," so it became apparent "just" two more films simply wouldn't do it justice.

If that's true and when the curtains rise on Avatar 2 in 2016, it seems safe to bet Cameron's incredible vision will be just as stunning as the first. When that happens, there should be little preventing the new Avatar from making box office history.

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In the meantime, with all the focus on the big screen, don't forget News Corp, Disney, and Viacom are all still fighting for attention in your living room after the curtains fall. You already know cable is going away, but do you know how to profit when it does? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.

Read/Post Comments (17) | Recommend This Article (20)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 6:52 PM, delfra wrote:

    While I do believe the Avatar sequels will be big hits, I don't expect them to approach the massive box office numbers of the original, not going to happen. They let way too much time pass, it would a been difficult enough trying the top the first film's box office take had they released the sequel 2-3 years later, but seven full years come on now, no way. Since than Marvel and comic film have really taken over and dominated the box office scene. Eventhough it's the biggest hit ever, I just don't see anyone talking about 'Avatar' and it's sequels at all. It doesn't have the lasting impact 'Star Wars' has or the Marvel films seems to have. What's hot toady and what you really need to be talking like everyone else is the upcoming "Avengers: Age Of Ultron", now that right there my friend will be the next 2 billion grossing film, count on it.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 8:01 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:

    Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've seen this mistake on this site for months now:

    Twenty-First Century Fox is not a subsidiary of News Corp.

    The two are separate companies. And technically, Twenty-First Century Fox is the old News Corp, while News Corp is the new News Corp.

    News Corp was renamed Twenty-First Century Fox and at the same time spun-off its publishing division into a new company called News Corp.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 8:19 PM, tjo62 wrote:

    I know I'm in a huge minority(but by no means alone as I have talked many others who feel the same), but Avatar was a grossly boring , bloated and pretentious film that required a mighty struggle for me to endure to the end. A "message" as old as dirt...military bad, tree huggers good.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 8:54 PM, Haypressflats wrote:

    I hope the story is better then the first. It was nothing more then a marine that betrayed his world over some blue tail. Pathetic!

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 9:43 PM, redfox435cat wrote:

    Didn't he say repeatedly and adamantly he does not and will not do a sequel. So is he gonna do a whole series now?

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 9:44 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:

    I think many people had similar issues with this 3D movie filled with one-dimensional characters.

    Nobody ever said James Cameron was a great screenwriter though. Great director, yes. Great screenwriter, no so much.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 9:48 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    Avatar sucked. It was eye candy, and nothing more. Cameron is a hypocrite. He preaches about climate change but has the biggest carbon footprint on the planet. He is one of those elitists who has no intention of changing his own consumption at all. He simply sees himself as royalty, exempt from all of it. And then he took his fortune and ran off to another country after supporting Obama and all his nonsense. Seems he didn't want to pay all the taxes he supported for the rest of us.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 9:53 PM, awang0718 wrote:

    if Cameron wants Avatar 2,3, and 4 to approach or exceed the level of success of the first Avatar, he is going to have to focus more on a compelling story and solid character development rather than just focusing on the 3-D technology.

    Fortunately, Cameron did write the screenplay to Terminator 2, which I thought had a fantastic story and great character development, as well as amazing visual effects. If Cameron can make the Avatar sequels as compelling as Terminator 2, then I'm satisfied.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 10:37 PM, bungeemann wrote:

    Please stop with the "highest grossing" nonsense if you are not going to take into account inflation. If you are attempting to compare the relative successes of movies you can't compare a dollar from 1939 when Gone With the Wind was made to today as if they are the same thing. Not only that, but they didn't have a multi-screen cineplexes on every street corner in the old days... you actually had to make an effort to get to a theater.

    Here is the REAL list of top grossing movies of all time, all the way down to Avatar:

    1 Gone with the Wind MGM $1,687,072,600 $198,676,459 1939^

    2 Star Wars Fox $1,487,298,600 $460,998,007 1977^

    3 The Sound of Music Fox $1,189,168,400 $158,671,368 1965

    4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Uni. $1,184,483,700 $435,110,554 1982^

    5 Titanic Par. $1,131,211,800 $658,672,302 1997^

    6 The Ten Commandments Par. $1,093,850,000 $65,500,000 1956

    7 Jaws Uni. $1,069,458,100 $260,000,000 1975

    8 Doctor Zhivago MGM $1,036,531,100 $111,721,910 1965

    9 The Exorcist WB $923,503,000 $232,906,145 1973^

    10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Dis. $910,150,000 $184,925,486 1937^

    11 101 Dalmatians Dis. $834,309,000 $144,880,014 1961^

    12 The Empire Strikes Back Fox $819,808,300 $290,475,067 1980^

    13 Ben-Hur MGM $818,300,000 $74,000,000 1959

    14 Avatar Fox $812,081,500 $760,507,625 2009^

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 11:46 PM, hellrazor0606 wrote:

    I loved Avatar BUT that was AFTER it came out on dvd. I fell asleep when I went to the movie theater to watch it. Now, since we all know what Avatar is all about from the first movie. I believe the next ones should be good. There should be no reason to bore us with things we all know already.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 1:59 AM, JustAnotherFool6 wrote:

    "if Cameron wants Avatar 2,3, and 4 to approach or exceed the level of success of the first Avatar, he is going to have to focus more on a compelling story and solid character development rather than just focusing on the 3-D technology."

    Actually, that is sadly false. Look how much money the horrible Star Wars prequels made.

    I think Cameron is going to introduce them all in high frame rate with smell-a-vision.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 2:17 AM, cri33 wrote: you must be one tough customer if you saw the movie in 3D and fell asleep through it. I wonder if you could sleep through a nuclear war. That was one of the best movies I have ever seen and when it is shown on tv I watch it. If you didn't see it in 3D then you really missed out.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 2:23 AM, mangacarta wrote:

    James Cameron did not create the world of Avatar, he simply copied it from a bad cartoon staring Robin Williams called Fern Gully. Anyone who has seen it, can not deny, it is the exact same movie.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 12:36 PM, AloneMordakai wrote:

    I was not a fan of Avatar. The underlying story was super generic (corporate/military guys are bad, little guys trying to save the world are good), though to be fair, most plots are generated from a few basic concepts.

    The thing that I disliked the most was the massive amounts of CGI. What happened to the good old original Star Wars days when they actually built sets and scale models? CGI should absolutely be used in moderation.

    Aside from that, the characters were extremely Black & White; there was no middle ground, no struggle with what the correct path or answer should be. "We want this ore and we'll destroy everything and everyone to get it." That doesn't really present a moral delimma for the audience or characters.

    Avatar was 70's/80's style movie activism with cutting edge technology.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 1:14 PM, chadsexington wrote:

    "Second, remember the first Avatar captured movie-goers' imaginations not only with its environmentally friendly ambitions, but also through its portrayal of a jaw-dropping, beautiful alien world punctuated by cutting-edge technology."

    actually, no, i don't remember that. it was the special effects that made this film the box office champ, not some lame environmental message. i was repulsed by its anti-human, anti-military, anti-American BS.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 3:28 PM, drdancin wrote:

    maybe I should see the first one finally..........nah

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 6:34 PM, awang0718 wrote:


    I agree, the Star Wars prequels made a lot of $$$. However, lets take a look at how much the Star Wars prequels earned during their original theatrical release. (Not adjusted for inflation)

    Phantom Menace: $924.3 million

    Attack of the Clones: $649.3 million

    Revenge of the Sith: $848.7 million

    While all three Star Wars prequels were hugely successful, the fact that the Phantom Menace received a lot of negative reviews may have caused Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith to earn $270 million and $170 million less that the Phantom Menace, repectively. In other words, negative reviews toward the Phantom Menace may have resulted in a lot less money generated from the other 2 prequels.

    I'm not trying to say that a movie with a good story and good character development will make money. Just look at the Transformers movies. Those movies have terrible stories and no character development, yet make a sh*t laod of $$$.

    Avatar was widely criticized for being a cool looking movie wiht a mediocre story. Just by reading this comments section, many people seem uninterested in the Avatar sequels because they fear the sequels may also have bad story's and little character development. If Cameron spent more time on the story and characters, it will increase his chances of making a better movie, which may cause naysayers of the first film to say "Hey, Avatar 1 may have sucked, but Avatar 2 seems to be better, so I'll watch it."

    Just my 2 cents...

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