It's difficult to understate the impact that Avatar had when it was first released in 2009. Its use of expensive and detailed CGI paved the way for a new (and somewhat divisive) age of digital cinematic storytelling. To this day, Avatar remains one of the highest-grossing films of all time, rivaled only by 2019's Avengers: Endgame and 1939's Gone With the Wind.
On paper, success of this magnitude would most certainly call for a sequel. For all intents and purposes, this did happen for Avatar.
Following the unprecedented financial success of the first film, several sequels to Avatar were greenlit to expand the world of the Na'vi. As of this writing, many of those films are still in development, but the release schedule is undeniably mind-boggling.
After all, the second film in the intended Avatar series is only now coming out, 13 years after the first movie. How many Avatar films could there possibly be after a gap like that?
How many 'Avatar' films will there be?
A common occurrence for the Avatar films is that director James Cameron had to wait for film technology to catch up with his vision for the movies. Reportedly, the first Avatar was supposed to start filming in 1997 to be released in 1999. Principal photography wouldn't begin until much later in 2007 with the film to come out in 2009, a decade after its original release date.
This held true for the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, where the development of new technology pushed the sequel's release from 2014 to 2022.
Despite this egregiously long production cycle for both films, there are still plans for more installments of Avatar in the future. As of this writing, there are four planned Avatar sequels — including The Way of Water — for a total of five films.
When is the next 'Avatar' movie coming out?
The third Avatar film was already filmed simultaneously alongside The Way of Water. Principal photography is already completed and the film was expected to release in December 2024.
Disney announced in June 2023 that the movie release will be pushed back. Now, CNBC reports that fans shouldn't expect the next movie until 2025. Accordingly, the fourth movie wouldn't be until 2029. The fifth movie would then be expected to come out in 2031.
But while Avatar 4 and 5 are reportedly greenlit, their productions hinge on the financial success of The Way of Water. In a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, James stated that "if Avatar 2 and 3 don't make enough money, there's not going to be a 4 and 5."
According to several box-office predictors, The Way of Water needed to essentially break the ticket sales records of its own predecessor in order to turn a profit with the film's ~$400 million budget. Thankfully, the movie hit $2.243 billion in global ticket sales, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Avatar 3 may have to perform similarly to give credence to two more Avatar films.