Director James Cameron will shoot the next three sequels to Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time, in New Zealand after the South Pacific nation increased subsidies to film makers.
New Zealand has signed an deal with Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. for the movies, which are expected to inject at least NZ$500 million ($413 million) into the economy, Prime Minister John Key said in Wellington today. It comes after the government agreed to raise the rebate offered to the makers of big-budget films to 20 percent of production expenditures from 15 percent, with an additional 5 percent available if certain conditions are met.
Cameron’s first Avatar film, a science fiction story of human miners clashing with the indigenous, blue-skinned people on the distant moon Pandora, was shot in New Zealand, earning about $2.8 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. In 2010, the New Zealand government changed labor laws and offered rebates to Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. to ensure Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films were made in the country.
“The Avatar sequels will provide hundreds of jobs and thousands of hours of work directly in the screen sector as well as jobs right across the economy,” Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said in a statement. “They will be a very big boost to the screen industry while we look to develop more New Zealand-sourced productions.”
New Zealand is competing with countries such as Canada and U.S. states including North Carolina that have been boosting subsidies for producers to shoot films far from the traditional studios of Los Angeles. This year’s top grossing film “Iron Man 3” was shot primarily in North Carolina while studio work for the science fiction feature “Gravity” was done in Vancouver, according to the Internet Movie Data Base.
Cameron, who recently bought land in New Zealand, said at a press conference in Wellington today that work on the Avatar films has already started. He expects them to be released at Christmas 2016, 2017 and 2018, the New Zealand Herald reported.
If the Avatar sequels meet the conditions set out in the agreement, they will qualify for a 25 percent rebate. The conditions include that at least NZ$500 million is spent on production activity in New Zealand, that the country hosts at least one official red carpet premiere, and that a featurette on New Zealand is included with DVD and Blue Ray releases of the movies.
In addition, Cameron and producer Jon Landau have offered to serve as founding members of a new screen advisory board, which will provide advice and guidance to New Zealand screen and filmmakers looking to succeed internationally, the government said.
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