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Avatar sequels prep for New Zealand filming

AvatarJames Cameron’s Avatar sci-fi sequels will film live-action scenes in New Zealand later this year, using Wellington’s Stone Street Studios as a production base.

The filmmaker is working on a series of back-to-back sequels to his 2009 movie Avatar, which followed a paraplegic soldier able to transfer his consciousness to an alien body for adventures on a distant planet.

Avatar remains the highest-grossing film of all time, with global box-office takings of nearly $2.8bn.

As with the first movie, motion capture technology is an integral part of the Avatar sequels – used to render the story’s ‘Na’vi’ alien race – and this process has already been largely completed by Cameron’s production company Lightstorm Entertainment at a facility in California, producer Jon Landau told film site Collider at a recent Q&A session for IMAX.

The recent Planet of the Apes films made motion capture technology work outside a studio setting, but the Avatar sequels are making further advancements by utilising motion capture underwater.  

Back in 2013, Cameron and his production team announced plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars on live-action production and visual effects work in New Zealand, via a memorandum of understanding formed with the government.

The first Avatar sequel is due in cinemas in December 2020.

International production in New Zealand rose by almost 20% in 2017, with most foreign shoots originating from North America. The country got a profile boost last year through a climactic helicopter chase for Mission: Impossible – Fallout that was shot in the South Island and a live-action remake of Disney’s historical epic Mulan was also shot locally.

New Zealand also now offers water tank facilities, with Kumeu Film Studios having been made permanent after being specially built for shark attack thriller The Meg.

See KFTV's production guide for more on filming in New Zealand

Image: WETA Digital/20th Century Fox