‘Avatar’ sequel filming begins in New Zealand: Report

June 8, 2020, 4:44 PM UTC

Hollywood has begun to reopen—and it’s starting on an island nation 6,500 miles away from Los Angeles.

The filmmakers behind the sequel to the popular science-fiction movie Avatar have reportedly begun filming in New Zealand thanks to special permission from the South Pacific nation’s government.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post, Academy Award–winning director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau were among the 55 crew members spotted in Wellington, the country’s capital. New Zealand’s borders are closed to foreigners, but the crew arrived on an approved chartered plane.

New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million and is a popular spot for Hollywood (look no further than the Lord of the Rings trilogy), had 1,154 confirmed coronavirus cases and 22 deaths. It hasn’t reported a new case since Feb. 28 and will end social distancing measures on June 9.

The first Avatar film, released in 2009 and earning an astounding $2.79 billion, is one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Cameron said before the film’s release that he’d make sequels if it were successful; two big-budget followup films were announced in 2010. The first of the sequels—starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, and others—is now slated for release on Dec. 17, 2021; another three films are planned for 2023, 2025, and 2027.