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China Gives a Rare Green Light to ‘Avatar’ Sequel

James Cameron blockbuster is one of the few foreign films to get access to the Chinese market in recent months

The Avatar sequel is said to have cost more than $400m to make. This image shows director James Cameron in September 2011. A scene from "Avatar" is shown on screen background. File photo: Fred Prouser, Reuters.


China has given a rare green light to the long-awaited sequel to director James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar”.

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ will be released in cinemas on the mainland on December 16, 20th Century Studios said on Wednesday.

That is the same day as its global release, the studio said on its official Weibo account.

The movie will be one of the few foreign films to get access to the Chinese market in recent months, with others including the latest film in the “Minions” franchise and Sony Pictures’ “Where the Crawdads Sing”.

Foreign movies have long struggled to gain release dates in mainland China due to strict quotas on the number of international films allowed to show and many are blocked due to content that Chinese regulators deem unseemly.

The original Avatar was the biggest grossing movie of all time, bringing in over $2.8 billion at the box office, while the sequel is said to have cost well over $400 million.


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Hollywood blockbusters recently have had a particularly hard time getting clearance to show in China.

The six latest Marvel movies did not make an appearance in China and earlier this year, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was also denied a China release.

Increased scrutiny of Hollywood films has occurred in conjunction with a rise in China’s film studios making their own versions of the high-octane blockbusters US studios are known for.

Chinese-made hits include the “Wolf Warrior” franchise and last year’s breakout success, “The Battle at Changjin Lake”, have proven popular with Chinese audiences keen to see more Chinese-centric stories on the big screen.

And while Chinese movie ticket sales topped US ticket sales for the first time in 2020, the Chinese movie market has been hit by tight Covid restrictions. Cinemas across the country are frequently asked to suspend operation or to cap audience numbers.

Especially as cases continue to grow, people in many cities around the country are refraining from going to cinemas.

China’s total box office take for this year has reached only 28.27 billion yuan ($4 billion) according to Chinese cinema data app Dengta. That is a huge fall from the 64.15 billion yuan in turnover in 2019 or even last year’s 47.04 billion.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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