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Fox Executive on Delayed ‘Avatar’ Sequels: ‘Jim Cameron Has His Own Pace’

Moviegoers will get a chance to revisit Pandora, it just will take a little while longer to get there. The sequel to “Avatar” was originally slated to come out in 2016, but director James Cameron said in January that it will now come out a year later than expected.

“Jim Cameron has his own pace,” 20th Century Fox chairman-CEO Jim Gianopulos said Thursday at the Gabelli & Company’s Movie & Entertainment Conference in New York City.

The Fox studio chief said he fully expects the follow-up to the highest-grossing film of all time will hit theaters during the 2017 Christmas holidays with two subsequent chapters bowing in 2018 and 2019. The sequels will be shot simultaneously. Gianopulos told the investor-heavy crowd that he visited Cameron at his offices in New Zealand two months ago.

“It’s a room…which is covered floor to ceiling with images, characters, worlds, settings,” said Gianopulos. “It’s the most amazing, breathtaking thing you’ve ever seen. His challenge is to put all of that in a movie.”

The first film represented an enormous gamble for Fox. It carried a $237 million production pricetag, was shot largely with greenscreens, and was one of the first big bets on live-action 3D films. Gianopulos joked that the director’s pitch left Fox executives perplexed.

“There was that moment when Jim Cameron said 10-foot blue people with tails,” said Gianopulos, referencing the film’s alien characters. “In the first movie he created technology that was so far ahead of its time,” he added. “Of course now he’s gone past that…all the pieces are in place. The story is being finalized.”

Gianopulos presentation was notable for the one topic it left unaddressed. His remarks came the same day that Rupert Murdoch ceded control of the studio’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to his sons, James and Lachlan. However, moderator Brett Harriss did not ask Gianopulos about the recent shake-up and, unlike at other panels, the audience was not allowed to ask questions.

Approached as he was leaving the presentation and asked about the leadership changes, Gianopulos declined to comment.

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