Filming of James Cameron’s four Avatar sequels in New Zealand has been delayed indefinitely due to coronavirus concerns.
Meanwhile Slim Film + Television has suspended for at least one month production in South Africa of the big budget TV series Around the World In 80 Days, which Seven Studios is co-producing.
Cameron and producer Jon Landau’s production company Lightstorm Entertainment had been due to finish filming Avatar 2 and 3 in the northern spring.
Landau told the New Zealand Herald he and a group of colleagues have postponed their flight to Wellington and will continue working in Los Angeles.
“If I told you we are going to know something in two weeks I’d be lying,” he said. “I might not be wrong – even a broken clock is right twice a day. But I would be lying because I don’t know.
“We’re in the midst of a global crisis and this is not about the film industry. I think everybody needs to do now whatever we can do, as we say here, to flatten the [coronavirus] curve.”
Earlier this year, the Walt Disney Co. announced release dates for each film: Avatar 2 on December 17, 2021; Avatar 3 on December 2023, Avatar 4 on December 2025 and Avatar 5 on December 2027.
Weta will continue to work on the visual effects. The shutdown is another blow to New Zealand-based crew after Amazon Studios suspended filming of the TV series The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand for at least two weeks.
That followed the New Zealand government’s decision last Friday to effectively close its borders by banning cruise ships until the end of June and requiring everyone flying into the country to self-isolate for 14 days.
Majority-owned by Seven West Media, Slim Film + Television halted production on Around the World In 80 Days and the cast including David Tennant, who plays Phileas Fogg, and crew are returning to London.
“We’ll crawl over hot coals to make our shows, but there comes a point when you go: this isn’t fair on the teams and their families back at home,” Slim’s founder/managing director Simon Crawford Collins told Deadline.
“We’ve got to call a temporary hiatus and look after everyone and get them home. We’re trying to pause things in the most effective way so we can launch back into production as soon as the mists clear.”
Co-commissioned by the Seven Network, the adaptation of the Jules Verne classic follows Fogg and his valet Passepartout (French actor Ibrahim Koma) as they embark in 1872 on the legendary journey of circumnavigating the globe in just 80 days.
They are joined by aspiring journalist Abigail Fix (The Crown’s Leonie Benesch), who seizes the chance to report on this extraordinary story.
France’s Federation Entertainment is handling distribution rights to the drama which will air on the BBC in the UK, France Télévisions, Germany’s ZDF and Italy’s RAI.