James Cameron is back to talking about Avatar, and is sticking to his guns this time around. While the first sequel to the film, which doesn't have an official title yet, was originally planned for as many as three years ago, Cameron insists it'll be out next year.
"Christmas of 2017 is the target [release date]. At least, that's what we've announced," he told the Montreal Gazette. It's not exactly a firm release date, then, as he cautions about it in literally his next sentence, and no production/distribution schedule has actually been set. In fact, the script isn't even written yet, let alone casting or other pre-production elements.
"The writing is ongoing, but almost finished," Cameron said. There are elements that have moved along a bit further, though. "We have design more or less finished. All the creatures and the landscapes, and the worlds within the world of Pandora that you see. Technical development is done. Stages are done. Infrastructure."
The plan, then, is to film three films back-to-back-to-back, and release them one year after another. That gives them two years to focus on the first, and presumably finish any technical work to prep, with a year of effects and post-production work each for the other two, a schedule that should be met with relative ease.
Cameron also reveaed that each of the three films will "stand alone," but contain a "meta-narrative that runs across the three movies."
Christmas 2017 is the date that Cameron has been talking about for all of 2015, first giving that target in January of this year, and confirming it again in interviews in August and October, so it seems as if it's a goal he's confident can be kept. There are no other major genre or franchise films scheduled for December 2017 right now, as Star Wars moves back to May in 2017 (and for the foreseeable future after that).
In addition to three Avatar films, there's also the new Cirque du Soleil show Toruk and the soon-to-launch Avatar themed rides and areas in Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom.