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James Cameron Has Plans For Avatar 6 And 7 If The Fans Demand Them

Less than a month from the release of "Avatar: The Way of the Water," a bizarre specter hangs in the air. Audiences can all but yawn as superhero films continue to break box office records and rake in unimaginable global grosses. However, for the sequel to one of the biggest movies of all time, an awkward question lingers: does anyone still care about "Avatar?"

Depressing as the thought is for some (especially those desperate for capeless blockbusters to make a comeback), it is a question that is undeniably worth asking. In many ways, "Way of the Water" looms as an impending litmus test for the near future of mainstream cinema, and no one is entirely confident about the answer. James Cameron — the legendary filmmaker and visionary mind behind the world of Pandora — seems at least somewhat hopeful that his franchise has a long future ahead.

Though he's already begun development on two "Avatar" sequels after "Way of the Water," he has plans for as many as five total. According to an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he's even given thought to train someone to take over the franchise when he's unable to direct (he reasonably speculates he'll be in his late eighties by the time "Avatars" 6 and 7 roll around). Per the interview, the only barrier to their creation is fan interest, which "Way of the Water" could very well prove exists in a meaningful way. Other, perhaps more frustrating, considerations may still keep "Avatar" from reaching such longevity.

Avatar: Way of the Water needs a record-breaking box office return to be profitable

Even if "Avatar: Way of the Water" does resonate strongly with fans, it may face other problems. Though production has already begun on the fourth and fifth installments of the franchise, Cameron has confirmed that should "Way of the Water" underperform, then they are prepared to cancel both films and end the story with the untitled "Avatar 3" (per SlashFilm). Although saying the first film did well at the box office would be a laughable understatement, "Way of the Water's" path to profitability is unusually murky.

According to Cameron himself in a recent interview with GQ, the "Avatar" sequel is "very f***ing expensive." To break even, the director speculated that it would have to be one of the highest-grossing films of all time, at the very least necessitating a box office of $2 billion. That's an incredibly difficult benchmark to clear, especially after the pandemic. The sequel might turn out to be every bit as groundbreaking and culturally impactful as the first film, but if it doesn't perform extraordinarily at the box office, the studio will likely have a hard time justifying another massive investment into a sequel.

It's difficult to judge exactly how Avatar: Way of the Water will perform

The original "Avatar" film cleared just under $750 million domestically, for a total global box office of $2.7 billion (per BoxOfficeMojo). At the time, Business Insider reported that it was the first film to cross the $2 billion threshold. No film released since the pandemic has achieved this level of financial success, though "Spider-Man: No Way Home" came very close. With a global gross of $1.9 billion, the film likely would have made it to $2 billion if given a Chinese release ("Far From Home" made over $200 million in the country alone).

"No Way Home's" domestic box office was $814 million — Variety reports that "Way of the Water" is only projected to make $650 million domestically, over $100 million less than the 2009 film. Though the release windows were very different, it's also worth noting that box office prodigal son "Top Gun: Maverick" only cleared about $1.5 billion off a $717 million domestic run. It will be fascinating to see how "Way of the Water" performs internationally, given that the original "Avatar" drew much of its gross from outside territories. It has secured a Chinese release (unlike "Maverick" and "No Way Home"), but the original film only made about $200 million in the country. It's tough to say if the film will recoup its massive budget, but if it can't, it is hard to imagine we'll see "Avatars" 4 or 5 — much less 6 and 7.

For his part, Cameron remains both optimistic and realistic. "We're in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff..." He has said of the sequels (per SlashFilm). "It's the one-two punch — the pandemic and streaming. Or, conversely, maybe we'll remind people what going to the theater is all about. ["Way of the Water"] definitely does that. The question is: how many people give a s*** now?"