While it wasn’t so hard for Avatar: The Way of Water to dominate the box office and become the third-highest-grossing film of all time, Avatar 3 will be the real test of this franchise’s longevity.
Director James Cameron has long said that the future of his Avatar films would rely heavily on how much money they make. And having confessed he’s pretty much locked into making both Avatar 4 and 5, this third instalment may really be the one that makes or breaks the series.
Of the top four films ever, Cameron now boasts three, with The Way of Water joining Avatar and Titanic in that list. With past performance being what it is, it's understandable why everyone is waiting for Avatar 3 to perform a similar box-office miracle.
The third Avatar film was filmed alongside the sequel and, presuming there are no post-production delays, will be out of the gate on time for its December 2024 release. There are two more movies to come after the third, so whatever the threequel gives it'll be chock-full of mysteries to explore.
As we wait for our next voyage to Pandora, here's everything you need to know about Avatar 3.
Avatar 3 release date: When will Avatar 3 be released in cinemas?
Long story short, Avatar 3 will be released in cinemas on December 20, 2024, barring any delays in post-production.
The threequel moved every time that the sequel did, so it's had a succession of release date changes. However, it was shot at the same time as The Way of Water, which means filming has been completed on Avatar 3.
Both movies were filmed from September 2017 to December 2020, but obviously, there's a lot of post-production work still to be done on the third film.
We're currently set to get Avatar 4 on December 18, 2026, and Avatar 5 on December 22, 2028.
Some filming has already been done on the fourth movie with the younger cast, but there's still shooting to be done. Additionally, the fifth movie hasn't started production at all. The fifth film does, however, have a completed script.
Avatar 3 cast: Who's coming back for Avatar 3?
Given that Avatar 3 was filmed at the same time as the sequel, we already know some confirmed returns for the next movie led by Sam Worthington as Jake Sully and Zoe Saldaña as Neytiri.
The sequel introduced us to the extended Sully family, but they'll be missing a member in the third movie, as Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) was shot and killed during The Way of Water's dramatic climax.
There's a chance we could see flashbacks or even Neteyam appearing when the Sully family interact with the Spirit Tree, but he's definitely dead.
Every other Sully member survived, so we'll be seeing Britain Dalton as their second son Lo'ak, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss as their youngest child Tuktirey and their adopted daughter Kiri (played by Sigourney Weaver), who's the biological daughter of Dr Grace Augustine's avatar.
Jack Champion will also be back as Miles 'Spider' Socorro, a Pandora-born human who was revealed to be Quaritch's son. He saved his father's life at the end of the sequel but chose to go back to the Sully family.
Speaking of Spider's dad, Stephen Lang will be back as Colonel Miles Quaritch, who's now a Recombinant (a Na'vi avatar embedded with Quaritch's memories). He's got even more reason for vengeance now, having been bested again by Jake.
Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet will return as Metkayina leader Tonowari and his wife Ronal, while Bailey Bass will be back as their daughter Tsireya.
Payakan, the lovable Tulkun who befriended Lo'ak in the sequel, will also be back (via Empire), alongside his nemesis Mick Scoresby, played by Brendan Cowell. Scoresby lost an arm thanks to Payakan, so he's sure to be out for revenge.
We're also expecting some newcomers in the third movie. David Thewlis joins in a secret role, Michelle Yeoh plays Dr Karina Mogue and Game of Thrones star Oona Chaplin stars as Varang.
It's been revealed that Varang is the leader of the Ash People, an "aggressive, volcanic race of people" that we'll meet in the threequel. They're one of two new Na'vi cultures Cameron is going to introduce us to in the next movie.
The other is a desert-dwelling tribe which the director, in an interview with Deadline, referred to as "the Windtraders that trade, that travel around, that sort of thing". Windtraders also happens to be the name given to the gift shop in Disney World's Avatar-themed area, Pandora – The World of Avatar. Coincidence or no?
If you're hoping that Vin Diesel will pop up in the new movie, producer Jon Landau has ruled out the prospect of him joining the family.
"Vin was a fan. He came in, visited the set one day to see what we were doing and people took that out of context," he said.
And fans of Michelle Rodriguez's character Trudy Chacón from the original Avatar are likely to be disappointed too, as the actress confirmed in an interview with Vanity Fair that she would not want her character (who died in the first movie) to be resurrected.
"When I saw Jim [Cameron] recently, he was like, 'I was thinking, what if Michelle came back? A lot of the other characters came back [in The Way of Water]'," she said.
"I was like, 'You can't do that – I died as a martyr. Jim, I came back in Resident Evil, I wasn't supposed to. I came back in Machete, I wasn't supposed to. I came back with Letty, I wasn't supposed to. We can't do a fourth, that would be overkill!'"
Avatar 3 title: What's Avatar 3 going to be called?
The title for Avatar 3 is yet to be confirmed, but we might have a good idea of what it's going to be called.
Back in November 2018, BBC News reported that the four Avatar sequels would be called Avatar: The Way of Water, Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkun Rider and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa.
Cameron confirmed in February 2019 that those titles were "in consideration". Avatar: The Way of Water did end up being the name of the sequel, so could Avatar: The Seed Bearer be the title of the third movie?
We probably won't actually know for a while, because the second movie's title wasn't confirmed until the first teaser in May 2022.
Avatar 3 plot: What will Avatar 3 be about?
While Avatar: The Way of Water is fairly self-contained, it does seed some teasers of what Avatar 3 will be about.
By the end of the movie, the Sully family might have lost a member, but they're now part of the Metkayina clan. In Jake's closing voiceover, it's clear he's gearing himself up for a major stand against the RDA to protect his family.
"This is our fortress. This is where we make our stand," he says.
Unless Cameron is just messing with us, this suggests that the third movie could see the Na'vi and the RDA head into all-out war.
Jake is stepping away from the narration in Avatar 3, though. Cameron has confirmed that Lo'ak will take over narration for the third movie, with other characters narrating in the fourth and fifth movies.
There are also mysteries to explore in the third film, namely who Kiri's father is and why she has such a close connection to Eywa to the extent that she can control the flora and fauna of Pandora.
Interestingly, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver revealed to Variety that there was originally "too much material" for the sequel, so it was split into two movies. This means you can bet Avatar 3 will be closely linked to The Way of Water.
The duo stayed tight-lipped on what exactly we can expect. They did, however, say that the dynamics set up in the sequel, such as between the two sets of parents, "continue to play out" in the third movie.
Jack Champion has teased a bit more about Avatar 3, saying he was "very shocked" by the story when he first read the script.
"It just takes a hard left turn, and that's not a bad thing. You think you know where it's going, but then a wrecking ball comes. So you're completely like: 'Oh wow, I never thought that would've happened'," he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Champion added: "You also see more regions of Pandora, and you get introduced to more cultures. So I think it's even better than Avatar 2. Collectively, they'll each get better."
At the BAFTAs, animating duo Richard Baneham and Joe Letteri said: "It's fair to say we are expanding the world and you will be exposed to different biomes and new tribes.
"And that was the idea even behind [Avatar: The Way of Water]. A lot of people asked after the first one, where is Jim [Cameron] going to take it? But his idea – and he's talked about this – is that it's a big planet and there are a lot of stories to tell. And I think that's what's great about it is we have this license to explore."
Much like the sequel, though, Avatar 3 will place the Sully family at the heart of the narrative.
"At the centre of each of our sequels is the Sully family. What are the dynamics that parents go through to protect their family?" producer Jon Landau explained in December 2021.
He also noted that all four sequels combined will create "an even larger epic saga".
"It's more like episodic television in the sense that the characters are the characters. The characters have their problems, and those problems will persist, and they'll get resolved over multiple films," Cameron told Digital Spy in December 2022.
"But the specific threat of the specific moment will always be resolved. And that's our motif that we applied to these films."
Avatar 3 trailer: Any Avatar 3 footage yet?
Sadly not. Even though it's been filmed, we don't yet have any footage from Avatar 3. And unless Cameron has a surprise lined up for the sequel's release, we might be waiting until 2024 to see anything.
Avatar 3 will be released in cinemas on December 20, 2024.
Movies Editor, Digital Spy Ian has more than 10 years of movies journalism experience as a writer and editor.
Starting out as an intern at trade bible Screen International, he was promoted to report and analyse UK box-office results, as well as carving his own niche with horror movies, attending genre festivals around the world.
After moving to Digital Spy, initially as a TV writer, he was nominated for New Digital Talent of the Year at the PPA Digital Awards.
He became Movies Editor in 2019, in which role he has interviewed 100s of stars, including Chris Hemsworth, Florence Pugh, Keanu Reeves, Idris Elba and Olivia Colman, become a human encyclopedia for Marvel and appeared as an expert guest on BBC News and on-stage at MCM Comic-Con. Where he can, he continues to push his horror agenda – whether his editor likes it or not.