By Shawn Robbins
20th Century Fox announced today that James Cameron is expanding his plans for two Avatar sequels into three. The current plan is to release Avatar 2 in December 2016, Avatar 3 in December 2017, and Avatar 4 in December 2018.
The announcement of an additional sequel now being in the pipeline is champagne-worthy news for Fox. The original Avatar grossed nearly $761 million domestically and an astounding $2.78 billion around the globe over three years ago. With the continued market expansion since from countries like China and Russia, among others, the overseas potential for the first sequel is massive. So long as Cameron keeps to his reputation of delivering crowd-pleasers, that story probably won't change for additional franchise installments in the years after 2016.
Originally planned for 2014/2015, the delay of Avatar 2 comes as no surprise as pre-production has slowly (but surely) ramped up. Cameron has been working on the sequel scripts for some time now, and he's certainly the kind of filmmaker who takes the "it'll release when it's ready" approach. That's one reason he's such a reliable filmmaker at the box office.
If there are any negative sides to the news, they are mere cautionary tales. Taking one film at a time is the wisest approach for any series. Even then, following in the footsteps of an uber-blockbuster is no cakewalk--look at the Jurassic Park sequels for proof of just one franchise that peaked early on. Will audiences be willing to turn out in droves for as many as three more sequels?
Moreover, with 3D firmly established in the world of movies now, will the format prove to be as big of an attraction seven years after the first film blazed its trail? Domestically, that's very up in the air as audiences have begun favoring 2D presentations over the last few years.
That being said, if there's a shortlist of filmmakers who can overcome such challenges, Cameron is certainly on it and it's nearly impossible to bet against him. If history is any indication, he probably has one or two more technological innovations in store for his Avatar sequels (he's already confirmed the use of underwater motion capture scenes). Only time will tell. Either way, Fox has its global cash cow firmly planted for the next half-decade.
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A $7.2 million opening weekend for The Wolverine led the box office chart in the United Kingdom. The superhero film opened in 522 screens and dominated the market with a $13,822 per-screen average. Monsters University placed second in its third frame with $4.7 million, taking its U.K. total past the $20 million milestone. Despicable Me 2 passed an even bigger milestone, reaching a $52.5 million total in its fifth week in release. The U.K. is the biggest overseas market for the animated Universal release. Depiscable Me 2 has grossed $662 million worldwide and is the third biggest film of 2013 at the global box office, behind Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6.
The World’s End posted a strong hold in its second weekend, grossing $2.2 million and reaching an $8.3 million total in its home market. Now You See Me raised its cume after a $1.3 million weekend, reaching a $13.7 million cume. Pacific Rim was the last strong hold of the weekend, falling 45% in its third frame for a $1.1 million take. The Guillermo del Toro popcorn flick has earned $10.7 million in the United Kingdom. Noah Baumbach’s micro-budget Frances Ha impressed in limited release, breaking into the top ten with a $3,863 per-screen average across 60 locations.
Top Ten Films in the United Kingdom. July 27-29, 2013
The Wolverine walked off with $6.3 million from its Mexico debut, the highest performance for an X-Men film featuring Hugh Jackman’s title character in the territory. X-Men: the Last Stand took in $5.9 million in its debut, X-Men Originis: Wolverine brought in $4 million, X2: X-Men United opened to $3.3 million, and the original X-Men grossed $2.5 million in their respective Mexican premieres.
Despicable Me 2 was a distant second place in its fourth frame, grossing $2 million over the weekend to take its total to a market-leading $43.1 million among films in release. Monsters University is still posting positive numbers after six weeks in Mexico. The Pixar prequel has taken in a total of $37.3 million in the country, the second biggest market for the film behind Japan. Turbo is the odd-film-out of the three animated features in the top ten, dropping 53% in its first hold for a $1.7 million weekend and $7.4 million cume. Mexico is the third top market for Turbo, behind South Korea and Russia.
The Lone Ranger fell 55% in its second weekend for a $1.5 million hold, taking its Mexican cume to $7.1 million. It’s a disappointing performance for the Disney release; The Lone Ranger has only taken in $78.6 million from 40 territories. If Johnny Depp’s brand has devalued through the release, it’s nothing compared to the diminishing returns of the Scary Movie franchise. Scary Movie 5 opened in sixth place to $434k, well behind openings that ranged from $926k to $1.6 million from the previous entries in the franchise.
Top Ten Films in Mexico. July 27-29, 2013
Hugh Jackman's latest outing as The Wolverine was met with a warm reception in the actor's home country. The latest installment in the X-Men franchise brought in $5.6 million from its opening weekend in Australia, the highest opening weekend in the series featuring Jackman in the role. Jackman's previous opening weekends in Australia as the clawed superhero included a $4.7 million opening for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, $5.05 million for X-Men: The Last Stand, $3.76 million for X2: X-Men United, and $2.1 million for the original X-Men.
The Heat broke the $10 million mark in Australia with a solid $1.6 million hold in its third week. Australia continues to be The Heat's biggest overseas market. The Conjuring scared up the weekend's highest per-screen average with at $10,681 and a $1.4 million weekend after a terrific hold that saw its grosses drop 9%. The Conjuring $3.7 million has earned in its Australian theatrical run.
Top Ten Films in Australia. July 27-29