James Cameron’s First ‘Avatar’ Sequel Pushed Back to 2017

The writing process for the saga is taking longer than expected, the director of the 2009 blockbuster said

The writing process for James Cameron‘s “Avatar” sequels is so “involved” that he has had to push the release date for the first back to late 2017.

The Associated Press reports the Academy Award winner behind “Titanic” and “The Terminator” dropped the bad news for fans hoping to see the first of three new movies in 2016 while promoting the local film industry in Wellington, New Zealand with “Hobbit” director Peter Jackson. Cameron filmed the 2009 blockbuster there, and has returned to produce the three sequels, which will be released over three consecutive years.

“There’s a layer of complexity in getting the story to work as a saga across three films that you don’t get when you’re making a stand-alone film,” he said on Wednesday. “We’re writing three simultaneously. And we’ve done that so that everything tracks throughout the three films. We’re not just going to do one and then make up another one and another one after that.”

Cameron’s writing team includes “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” creator Josh Friedman, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), as well as Shane Salerno, who previously worked with Cameron on “Fantastic Voyage.”

Both Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are expected to return to star in the film, along with Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. On the production side, Joe Letteri and his WETA Digital have also returned to help Cameron expand the world of fictional exoplanetary moon Pandora.

“We’ve designed all the creatures and the environments,” Cameron said.

“Avatar” became the highest-grossing movie in box office history when it was released six years ago. The 20th Century Fox movie, produced by Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, took home nearly $2.8 billion worldwide in theaters before becoming the highest-selling Blu-ray disc of all time, too.