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Coronavirus Shuts Down All Four Avatar Sequels

Another one bites the dust — or, really, another four do. 

Production on all four of James Cameron's in-development Avatar sequels has been shut down and delayed indefinitely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The four films — follow-ups to the original sci-fi epic from 2009, about humans colonizing Pandora and negatively affecting the lives of the native Na'vi in the process – were shooting simultaneously and due to be completed before the end of the year.

Jon Landau, the producer of the Avatar films, confirmed the news to the New Zealand Herald. A great deal of filming has already been completed, but a new block of filming was scheduled to take place in Wellington, New Zealand at Stone Street Studios sometime in April. With the quickening spread of COVID-19, world governments, global conglomerates (including many film and television studios), and even local mom-and-pop companies have taken precautions to inhibit the transmission of the illness. It only makes sense that after Marvel Studios shut down production on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Disney delayed the release of several of its upcoming movies, and theaters across the U.S. and in other countries have closed their doors, the Avatar sequels would be impacted as well.

"We've delayed it. We had plans to come down Friday night with a group of people and start back up and we made the decision to hold off and continue working here [Los Angeles], and come down there a little bit later than we'd planned," Landau stated. "We're in the midst of a global crisis and this is not about the film industry. I think everybody needs to do now whatever we can do, as we say here, to flatten the [coronavirus] curve."

This decision comes as New Zealand increases its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. With 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country as of this writing, the New Zealand government has imposed travel restrictions and set up a multi-billion-dollar economic support package to assist companies and their employees who can no longer operate during the pandemic.

Are the Avatar sequels in trouble?

News that Avatar 2, Avatar 3, Avatar 4, and Avatar 5 are facing a production delay of an indeterminate length would naturally be cause for concern. Currently, the films are slated to hit theaters in the following orderAvatar 2 on December 17, 2021, Avatar 3 in December 2023Avatar 4 in December 2025, and Avatar 5 in December 2027.

As of Tuesday, March 17, tere's been no word on whether the coronavirus-related production halt will result in the four Avatar sequels being pushed back. The good news is that Weta Digital, the digital visual effects company based in Wellington and co-founded by The Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson, is still working on the visual effects for the movies. In speaking with the New Zealand Herald, Landau stated that the main priority right now is for the production team to send Weta Digital "as many minutes" of footage as possible so that the proverbial VFX machine can continue running.

Though we haven't a clue when filming will resume, Landau noted that the team is keeping a close eye on the schedule as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and that everyone is thinking about "what is in the best interest of our crew," which he calls the "Avatar family." Crew members based in New Zealand reportedly have little to fear for the time being, with one individual stating, "The production is very supportive of us. We're not being laid off, it's on hold, so they're still committed to shooting it here as far as I know."

In all, it doesn't seem like the Avatar sequels or anyone involved with them are in any kind of serious trouble. Check back with Looper for further updates as more information becomes available.