|JAMES CAMERONBOX OFFICEAVATAR|
James Cameron‘s Avatar sequels have been a long time coming. Since the original science-fiction epic hit theaters in 2009 and went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time, expectations were high for a follow-up — should Cameron follow it up. But the years passed, and the planet of Pandora and its inhabitants slowly faded from public consciousness, despite Cameron constantly talking about how Avatar 2 was in the works.
Then, in 2017, the ball seemed to finally get rolling — cast members were returning, technology was evolving, production was beginning. Cameron would be shooting not one, but four sequels, back-to-back. But now, after that long, hard road to production, the Avatar sequels have encountered a fearsome obstacle in the coronavirus pandemic, which has fast been shutting down major Hollywood productions.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Cameron’s Avatar sequels have halted production in New Zealand due to the country’s attempts to stop the spread of the virus.
Producer Jon Landau confirmed to the New Zealand Herald that shooting has been delayed for a block of filming that was set to take place in Wellington’s Stone Street Studios in April. But the Wellington-based Weta Digital will continue to work on visual effects for the films, which are reportedly budgeted at $1 billion all-together.
“We’ve delayed it. We had plans to come down Friday night with a group of people and start back up and we made the decision to hold off and continue working here [Los Angeles], and come down there a little bit later than we’d planned,” Landau told the Herald. “We’re in the midst of a global crisis and this is not about the film industry. I think everybody needs to do now whatever we can do, as we say here, to flatten the [coronavirus] curve.”
As of now, it’s uncertain when production in New Zealand can resume, but Landau is re-assessing the production schedule “everyday, because that’s how quickly things change.” The producer added it was now the production’s priority to get “as many minutes” of VFX work to Weta Digital to complete. It’s possible, with the release for Avatar 2 so imminent, that the first sequel could at least make its scheduled release date, should VFX continue working.
The sequels to 2009’s Avatar have long been delayed, whether due to cast availability or due to the lack of suitable technology for the extensive underwater sequences Cameron had planned. But shooting had been well underway since production began in 2017, with work due to be completed by the end of 2020. Avatar 2 has a release date of December 27, 2021, with the three sequels to follow in December 2023, December 2025, and December 2027.
Week three of no theatrical releases. That will technically change soon — Universal’s premium VOD-opening “Trolls World Tour” has a handful of still-open drive-ins to play don’t expect any grosses reported. But it was a week full of important stories, with particular interest in a series of release date adjustments. However, no date can be realized if theaters aren’t open, and nobody knows when that will be.
• Exhibitor trade organization NATO held a webinar Friday. President John Fifthian raised hope that some theaters might be open by late May or early June. AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron, who oversees the most screens in North America reiterated his hopes for mid-June.
• With the COVID-19 still in its early stages of national spread, uncertainty about the curve flattening, and signs that in China, which had the earliest outbreaks three months ago, that viral decline doesn’t equal viral defeat, the reality is it could be weeks before anyone can make a reasonable assessment on reopening.
• Countering industry optimism that after weeks indoors, people will flock to theaters is a survey by Performance Research about public attitudes on return to public events. It saw 49 percent of respondents saying feeling safe about returning to theaters ranged from in a few months to never, with 28 percent saying if they do return, it will be less often. That said: This is a snapshot taken nearly two weeks ago, and shouldn’t be considered predictive. It showed similar or worse results for sporting events, concerts, and theme parks.
• Sports league executives spoke with President Trump, who urged resumption as soon as possible. However, Dr. Alan Sills, chief medical officer for the NFL, cautioned it is premature to believe that football can return this fall. Governors in some states that aren’t fully shut down, like Nebraska, encouraged voluntary compliance — with the threat that if the virus isn’t contained, their ardent fans might not have a season. Sports, of course, demand close player and spectator contact, and are more vulnerable even than theaters to the ongoing threat of contagion. But the idea that it is conceivable the country could have a year with no more sports is even more shocking than disruption to theaters.
• The key takeaway from multiple studio release schedule changes is, in re-dating titles, they don’t expect theaters to be fully operational until July at the earliest. Though key June and July titles like Pixar’s “Soul” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” remain in those months, “Mulan” on July 24 is the earliest rescheduled date for any major title. Other date changes act as a diversion while theaters are closed, but the reality is everything is written in pencil, not pen.
Disney+ has introduced the classic X-Men cartoon series avatars. The iconic TV series came out in the early 1990s and is what a lot of fans still think of when they think of the comic book characters. The series can be seen on the streaming service, but these new avatars have some believing that a new animated series could be on the way. While that has not been officially confirmed, we do know that Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige will be bringing the characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point.
X-Men characters Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Beast, Gambit, Jubilee, Jean Grey, Professor X, and Magneto can all be chosen as an avatar on Disney+. They all look like they did in the original animated series with a modern update, though Storm has a mohawk and Gambit does not have a cowl. Other than that, these are a nice addition to the avatars that Disney already had in place, which includes their original characters, Pixar characters, Star Wars, and more.
With the sudden addition of the classic X-Men characters, many fans are wondering why Disney+ chose to do it now. While it might not really mean much in terms of the future, it could prove that a lot of people are streaming the 90s series on the platform. While many were excited about what the Disney/Fox deal would do for the MCU and the big screen side of things, others were happy at the chance to see the original cartoon series again. The new avatars are not in the Marvel section of Disney+. Instead, they're in their own X-Men category.
Marvel fans have been waiting a long time to see the Fox properties all under the same MCU umbrella. Now that it's a reality, it's really only a matter of time before the X-Men and others end up being incorporated on the big screen. However, people are going to have to wait a decent amount of time before the characters get their MCU makeover. The MCU's Phase 4 will start when Black Widow is released, which should be at some point this year. The movie was originally supposed to hit theaters on May 1st, but has since been delayed indefinitely.
Disney+ and other streaming services are seeing an uptick in viewership due to everybody staying indoors. With the addition of the X-Men avatars, maybe Disney will introduce the Fox movies to the North American service. That would also be a pretty big deal for fans who have been waiting for that since November 2019 when the streaming platform launched. Regardless, Marvel fans can head over to their Disney+ profiles and give them an animated Marvel makeover right now. If you need to sign up, go visit the official Disney+ app site to sign up and enjoy a 7-day free trial to get a feel for things.
MARVEL X-MEN PROFILE AVATARS AVAILABLE NOW ON DISNEY+ pic.twitter.com/FEe5RwzTNg— Jᴇᴀɴ ɢʀᴇʏ Fᴀɴᴘᴀɢᴇ @JeanGreyFanPage April 1, 2020