James Cameron Says He’ll Give Up If Avatar 2 Flops

James Cameron says he will stop developing Avatar sequels if the next one does not do sufficiently well at the box office.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

James Cameron says that if Avatar: The Way of Water does not do sufficiently well at the box office, he is ready to give up his idea of multiple sequels. In an upcoming issue of Total Film (via Slash Film), James Cameron revealed that the profitability of the next Avatar film is pretty much the marker of whether or not he will continue telling stories in that particular franchise. That is remarkable to hear, considering the filmmaker has been developing the series for literal decades, but it seems he has some real faith in the decisions of the market.

Here is what James Cameron said to Total Film:

The market could be telling us we’re done in three months, or we might be semi-done, meaning: ‘Okay, let’s complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly,’ if it’s just not profitable … We’re in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff, even.

James Cameron has been working on Avatar: The Way of Water since 2010, when the massive, historic box office receipts of the first movie guaranteed that he could continue doing whatever he wanted to in Hollywood. At one point, the True Lies director planned to produce two sequels to the first Avatar movie back-to-back (a la Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy), but his plans for the franchise seem to be fluid, to say the least. While the specific number of Avatar films that James Cameron plans to make have changed from two to six, depending on the year, it really seems that it will depend on how much money they make. 

Avatar 2

In a way, it is refreshing for a filmmaker to be as candid as James Cameron about the role that profitability has in moviemaking. That said, it probably is a little easier for James Cameron to be open about actually caring about how much money the Avatar sequels make than most directors, considering that multiple films he has made in his career have ended up being the highest-grossing movie of all time. 

To date, both 1997’s Titanic (starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and the late Bill Paxton) and the first Avatar movie both became the biggest movies in history. At one point, James Cameron lost the crown (which he so famously shouted about during the Academy Awards) when Avatar was surpassed by Avengers: Endgame, but it was nothing that a quick re-release could not fix. The most recent re-release of Avatar (featuring remastered, high-definition visuals) grossed $76 million in just a few weeks, so it is probably safe to say James Cameron does not have to worry a lot about Avatar: The Way of Water’s commercial prospects.

At the very least, it seemed James Cameron is locked in for at least two more Avatar movies. He first began developing the idea of benevolent, nature-revering aliens coming into conflict with mean, colonist humans who covet their natural resources back in the 1990s, going so far as to develop a Na’vi language, culture, and meet with botanists to make sure that his sci-fi plants were as realistic as possible.

That is a lot of commitment for a franchise that he seems ready to leave to the invisible hand of commerce, but James Cameron has long been known as an odd figure in Hollywood. We’ll just have to watch the box office grosses to see what comes.