When Avatar hit theaters in 2009 it was notable not only for its incredible computer rendered special effects and record breaking box office returns, but also as a touchstone for a resurgence of 3D movies. Now 20th Century Fox and director James Cameron have announced plans to build out a quadrilogy of Avatar movies. Screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Shane Salerno and Josh Friedman are all on board to collaborate on the screenplays for movies 2, 3 and 4, which will be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau's Lightstorm Entertainment. Avatar 2 is scheduled to hit theaters in December 2016, with the other movies following in 2017 and 2018. WETA remains on hand to produce the special effects, we'll see what advancements in technology (Jim's in love with high framerates but The Hobbit didn't garner a universally positive response) allow them to create this time around and if audiences come out in similar numbers -- hopefully the 3D Blu-ray (or whatever format is around) doesn't take so long to arrive at retail this time.

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AVATAR UNIVERSE EXPANDS TO THREE SEQUELS James Cameron Hires Writers to Collaborate with Him on the Films

LOS ANGELES (August 1, 2013) __ Marking a significant expansion of his already ambitious plans for the much-anticipated AVATAR sequels, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker James Cameron announced today that the films have grown in number from two to three.

Additionally, to help bring his growing AVATAR universe to life and to expedite the process, Cameron has hired screenwriters Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planets of the Apes) and Shane Salerno (Savages, Salinger) and Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds) to collaborate with him on the screenplays for the three films.

The three pictures will be filmed simultaneously with production beginning next year. The release of the first sequel will be in December 2016, with the second to follow in December 2017, and the third a year later. AVATAR 2, 3, and 4 will be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau through their Lightstorm Entertainment banner. Like the original film, Lightstorm will work with Joe Letteri and his team at WETA Digital to realize the worlds of the sequels.

Commented Cameron: "Building upon the world we created with AVATAR has been a rare and incredibly rewarding experience. In writing the new films, I've come to realize that AVATAR's world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated, and it became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen. And to help me continue to expand this universe, I'm pleased to bring aboard Amanda, Rick, Shane and Josh -- all writers I've long admired -­ to join me in completing the films screenplays."

Commented 20th Century Fox chairman and CEO, Jim Gianopulos: "We at the studio have no higher priority, and can feel no greater joy, than enabling Jim to continue and expand his vision of the world of AVATAR. The growing breadth and scale of Jim Cameron's plans for his magnificent fantasy worlds continue to amaze us all."

AVATAR is the highest grossing film of all time, and is also the top-selling Blu-ray disc of all time. The film won Golden Globe® awards for Best Motion Picture and Best Director; and was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won Oscars for art direction, visual effects and cinematography.

AVATAR was written by Cameron from an idea he nurtured for over a decade, while working on the technology necessary to realize its wholly imagined world. Working with WETA Digital, Cameron created a fully immersive 3D cinematic experience of a new kind, where revolutionary technology that was invented to make the film disappeared into the emotion of the characters and the epic nature of the story.

The three AVATAR sequels will mark Cameron's latest collaborations with 20th Century Fox, a relationship that spans nearly 30 years and marks one of the most successful filmmaker-studio alliances in motion picture history. Cameron and Fox first joined forces in 1985 for Aliens, which became a sci-fi classic. Next came The Abyss, which revolutionized visual effects technology; then came the blockbuster, True Lies. In 1996, Fox greenlighted Cameron's Titanic, which became the most successful film in history, and won a record-breaking eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

About 20th Century Fox

One of the world's largest producers and distributors of motion pictures, 20th Century Fox produces, acquires and distributes motion pictures throughout the world. These motion pictures are produced or acquired by the following units: Twentieth Century Fox, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox International Productions and Twentieth Century Fox Animation.