This topic is an important one considering 13 years and multiple delays separated the original Avatar and its newly released family-focused sequel, the first of which was released way back in 2009.
Thankfully, audiences won't have to wait until 2035 to return to Pandora as Cameron and the Avatar cast filmed The Way of Water and the franchise's upcoming threequel simultaneously.
But even though both Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 have confirmed release dates from Disney, new comments from the director have conflicted with the studio's official word.
Is Avatar 4 Already Delayed?
In talking with The Wrap, director James Cameron shared when his next batch of Avatar films will "ideally" be released, saying, "two years from now, [Avatar 3] comes out. Ideally, maybe three years after that, [Avatar 4] comes out:"
"They exist. These stories exist. We know exactly what we're doing. We know what these movies are going to be. We just have to go through the process of getting them done. Ideally, two years from now, [Avatar 3] comes out. Ideally, maybe three years after that, [Avatar 4] comes out. Then maybe a couple years after that, [Avatar 5] comes out. So we won't be away from the marketplace."
Since Avatar 3 is set to release in 2024, Cameron saying "maybe three years after that, four comes out" means Avatar 4 won't premiere until 2027.
However, this date is a whole year later than Avatar 4's currently slated premiere date of December 18, 2026, contradicting Disney's official release schedule.
The filmmaker went on to share why his next Avatar films need to release sooner than later, explaining that audience investment requires storytelling "at a regular cadence" and creating the means to do so is "one of the reasons why we were gone so long:"
"So we'll have that sense of a persistent world, an ongoing story that I think people want. If they're going to invest in these characters, they're gonna invest in these worlds, we're going to give it to them at a regular cadence, ideally. That was the game plan. That's one of the reasons we were gone so long."
When Will Avatar 4 Actually Release?
Throughout the ramp-up in marketing for Avatar 2, and the subsequent post-release media blitz, Cameron has openly discussed his plans for Avatar 3, Avatar 4, and beyond.
It's clear that the director doesn't want lengthy gaps between his upcoming films or for his audiences to expect that. But yet, his comments suggest that Avatar 4 may already be delayed, judging by how this directly conflicts with when Disney seems set on releasing the movie.
Granted, the filmmaker did say "ideally" when discussing these plans. However, historically, Cameron is the one who calls the shots in terms of his films, so if he wants another year, he'll probably get it. Perhaps talks of a delay have been made internally between Cameron and the studio, and the schedule has simply yet to have been properly amended to reflect that.
If Disney and Cameron do make changes to upcoming slates, fans are sure to hear about it in the coming months, as December release slots are often the most lucrative and claimed years in advance.
This could mean that the fourth Avatar movie might steal the release spot of 2027's untitled Star Wars movie, which is currently slated for December 17 of that year. Looking at Lucasfilm's current plans for films set in the galaxy far, far away (or lack thereof), this may not be a difficult negotiation to make.
In the meantime, and in the years to come, it will be interesting to see if Cameron can balance the timing and technology required for his Avatar films with his commitment to a "persistent" and "ongoing" story.
Avatar: The Way of Water is playing in theaters worldwide.