Walt Disney Pictures has suspended production on James Cameron's Avatar sequels in New Zealand. Producer Jon Landau told The New Zealand Herald, "We've delayed it. We had plans to come down Friday night with a group of people and start back up and we made the decision to hold off and continue working here [Los Angeles], and come down there a little bit later than we'd planned. If I told you we are going to know something in two weeks I'd be lying. I might not be wrong – even a broken clock is right twice a day. But I would be lying because I don't know…We're in the midst of a global crisis and this is not about the film industry. I think everybody needs to do now whatever we can do, as we say here, to flatten the [coronavirus] curve."
VFX studio Weta will continue to work on the digital side of the films while principal photography remains at a halt. Cameron, Landau, and their team have been working on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 simultaneously, with both films expected to wrap filming in the spring. Last year, Disney put five Avatar movies on its release schedule, with the first opening in 2021 and the others following in two-year intervals after that. No word yet on if and how this delay will affect Disney's plans for the franchise.
Avatar is the latest in a string of big-budget films affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Warner Bros. announced it had halted production on The Matrix 4 and would delay the start of production Fantastic Beasts 3. It had already announced that it would shut down production on The Batman for two weeks.
Those announcements came after Universal shut down production on its upcoming live-action feature films. The biggest film affected was Jurassic World: Dominion, the end of a trilogy of films that revived Universal's Jurassic Park franchise. The film began shooting in London in February. Disney, Netflix, Sony, and others have also halted production on other projects. There have also been delays in the releases of finished movies, including A Quiet Place Part II and The New Mutants.
With some studios releasing first-run movies via video on demand and national theater chains closing for at least six weeks after having their worst weekend in decades, fans now wait to see how Disney plans to handle the release of its next Marvel Studios movie, Black Widow. The film is scheduled to open on May 4th.