Mouse House shifts its long-term plans

The Sudbury Star - - MOVIES - NICK TURNER and ANOUSHA SAKOUI

Avatar fans will have to wait an­other year.

Walt Dis­ney, which ac­quired the fran­chise when it bought 21st Cen­tury Fox’s en­ter­tain­ment as­sets this year, will de­lay Avatar 2 to De­cem­ber 2021 from 2020. The stu­dio also pushed back ad­di­tional planned se­quels, mean­ing a pro­posed Avatar 5 won’t de­but un­til 2027.

The move cuts what could have been Dis­ney’s big­gest film of 2020 from its sched­ule, mean­ing it will have to rely more other movies, such as Cruella and a West Side Story re­boot di­rected by Steven Spiel­berg. It also will have a trio of Mar­vel films, though two are still un­ti­tled.

Dis­ney also an­nounced plans for its Star Wars films. The next in­stal­ment — after The Rise of Sky­walker this De­cem­ber — is due in De­cem­ber 2022. An­other will ap­pear in 2024, with yet an­other de­but­ing in 2026.

That means there will be a three­year hia­tus be­fore the next Star Wars tril­ogy. CEO Bob Iger said last month that the com­pany wanted to take a break after the cur­rent nine-pic­ture saga con­cludes.

“We will take a pause, some time, and re­set,” he told Bloomberg Tele­vi­sion. “The Sky­walker saga comes to an end with this ninth movie. There will be other Star Wars movies, but there will be a bit of a hia­tus.”

The first Avatar film in 2009 was the high­est-gross­ing of all time and cap­i­tal­ized on the surg­ing pop­u­lar­ity of 3D movies. But au­di­ence in­ter­est in the fran­chise may have cooled since. Dis­ney’s Avengers: Endgame is now poised to over­take it in box of­fice rev­enue.

The big ques­tion hang­ing over the se­ries is whether writer-di­rec­tor James Cameron can rekin­dle ex­cite­ment sur­round­ing Avatar’s Pan­dora world and its Na’vi peo­ple over the next two to eight years.

Dis­ney’s theme parks could help. A World of Avatar at­trac­tion opened in 2017 at Walt Dis­ney World in Florida.

20TH CEN­TURY FOX

The Avatar se­quel has been pushed back un­til 2021.

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