Production on James Cameron's Avatar sequels is set to begin again in New Zealand. Filming had been paused on the highly anticipated follow-ups in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but cameras will begin again soon despite the outcry from some in the New Zealand government. According to a report from Kiwi outlet Stuff.com, Members of Parliament believe that the production is being granted "political favouritism." Stuff reports that "56 film workers" tied to the Avatar production were granted access into the country tied to "special exceptions for overseas workers," a number that is shockingly high since 9 out of ten requests for such exemptions are rejected by the government.
“What are the rules at the border? At the moment, it seems that if you’re a friend of the Government, you’re in business. If not, you’re on your own," ACT Leader David Seymour said. "There should be one rule for everyone... It’s unacceptable for politicians to be picking and choosing who can enter the country."
Only 201 special exemptions have been made in New Zealand so far by Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford, meaning over 25% of them have been granted to cast and crew members for Avatar. Criteria for the country to approve the exemptions reportedly comes down to the persons having a "highly unusual talent or skill," their work being time critical, and a "big financial value to New Zealand," something that Avatar no doubt qualifies as being. Twyford confirmed that he had not been "lobbied" by a studio to grant the exemptions to the film.
Next week will mark the end of the government mandated 14 days of quarantine for the cast and crew of Avatar that have returned to New Zealand, meaning that cameras can roll once again on the project. Cameron previously spoke candidly about the pandemic delays in a recent interview, saying:
“It's putting a major crimp in our stride here. I want to get back to work on Avatar, which right now we're not allowed to do under state emergency laws or rules. So it's all on hold right now... We were about to shoot down in New Zealand, so that got pushed. We're trying to get back to it as quick as we can.”
Avatar 2 will see the return of Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, CCH Pounder, and Matt Gerald. The first sequel is scheduled to be released in theaters on December 17, 2021. If all goes according to plan, Avatar 3 will be released on December 22, 2023, Avatar 4 will be released on December 19, 2025, and Avatar 5 will be released on December 17, 2027.