Filmmaker James Cameron started pre-production of “Avatar: The Way of Water” in 2014. Though sequels two and three to the 2009 “Avatar” had been greenlit by then 20th Century Fox head Jim Gianopulos, Cameron knew change was coming. In early 2019, The Walt Disney Company acquired the studio and with it, Cameron’s latest project.
“We sort of were led to believe that the ‘Avatar’ overall [intellectual property] was one of the jewels in the crown of what Disney was acquiring, so we expected them to be leaning forward and wanting to see what we were all about,” says Cameron. “They were excited by the potential of the new films, especially as it was planned out to be a series of films, a saga over time played out in four movies.”
In the first installment of a two-part conversation with Cameron, the filmmaker shares what changes affected the production of the movie, and why what he calls an “arranged marriage” with Disney turned out better than expected. He also discusses the importance of theaters and repeat views for the film’s success, and how he views streaming services.
But first, Kim Masters discusses with Matt Belloni how the “Avatar” and “Top Gun” sequels brought droves to the theaters. Will audiences go back in 2023, or will studios continue to focus on streaming?