"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.
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.
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.
Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.