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Disney exec confident studio can reignite 'Avatar' excitement for James Cameron sequels

Can the second Avatar make another $2 billion like its predecessor or is Pandora long past its prime?

By Josh Weiss

We're going to ask you a question and we'd like you to answer it honestly: Are you excited for James Cameron's upcoming Avatar sequels? Yes or no? It's a pretty important query for the moviegoing public, considering the original movie bowed on screens more than a decade ago. By Hollywood fast-paced standards, that's ancient history.

Sure, Avatar continues to remain culturally relevant via its theme park, and for having the highest box office gross in history (not even Avengers: Endgame could hold the top title for long), but there's no getting around the fact that it's taken nearly 15 years to get a second movie in the series. Compound that with delays related to production and the COVID-19 pandemic, and folks may not be as keen to shell out for the Avatar brand as they once were. Can the second chapter make $2 billion worldwide like its predecessor or is Pandora long past its prime?

The onus of reigniting audience excitement rests squarely with 20th Century Studios and its parent company, Disney, which purchased 20th Century Fox and its catalogue of entertainment properties in 2019 for a whopping $71.3 billion. By the sounds of it, though, the marketing incline might not be too steep for one of the most lucrative and well-oiled corporations on the planet.

"I can tell you that there is no better marketing apparatus in the business than the one at Disney," 20th Century Studios head honcho Steve Asbell told The Hollywood Reporter. "They will do an incredible job reigniting that passion for the original film. This is not just a sequel, it’s a saga. And it’s a family saga. It will be compelling on its own, but it will also be extremely compelling to return to those characters and to see how they’ve evolved. It’s less about Avatar being a really big movie and more about how Avatar was a really important cultural moment for audiences. I don’t think it will be hard to convince people to come back."

Avatar 2 is scheduled to hit theaters Friday, Dec. 16. When asked if the film would actually hit its 2022 release date, Asbell said: "Yes. It will," before adding: "For real. It’s going to blow people away. You’re not ready for what Jim is doing."

Three more Avatar projects are set to follow in 2024, 2026, and 2028 respectively.

Asbell also touched on the sequel to Free Guy, stating that a script was "days away" from being turned in. "It's a fantastic story," he teased, though it'll all come down to whether the screenplay meets the high expectations of Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy.

Oh, and that Planet of the Apes reboot apparently is still happening with Maze Runner director Wes Ball. "We are expecting a draft very shortly," Asbell said, also revealing that the plan is to begin production "by the late summer, early fall."