The Star Wars franchise announced this week that they were pushing back the saga’s Episode VIII to December 2017, setting up a potential box office bout between the record-breaking film and the sequel to Avatar, the previous highest-grossing record holder. However, The Wrap reported Friday that Avatar 2 will not be ready in time for Christmas 2017. Twentieth Century Fox declined to comment on the delay to the website, and no alternate release date for the sequel has been floated at this time.
The first follow-up to the massively popular 2009 sci-fi fantasy flick was initially slated for a Christmas 2016 release, with two additional sequels planned for Christmas 2018 and 2019. The news of Avatar 2’s postponement comes on the heels of an announcement that the next Star Wars installment will be released on December 15, 2017 — seven months after it was initially set to debut in theaters.
It was around this time last year that director James Cameron announced the film might not be ready as soon as he had hoped. “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,” Cameron said at the time.
Twentieth Century Fox, which may have expected an extended pre-production period, has never announced an official release date.
Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos confirmed the film was roughly on track for late 2017 release last summer though, before reportedly adding the caveat: “James Cameron has his own pace.”
Explaining the initial delays last year, Cameron said, “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. Parallel with that, we’re doing all the design. So we’ve designed all the creatures and the environments.”
The Wrap reports, at this point, filming has still not even begun on the next three installments of the sprawling epic.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens overtook Avatar as the highest-grossing film domestically in early January, though Avatar remains the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide.