The New Zealand film industry just received an early Christmas present from Director James Cameron. Famous for his 2009 smash-hit Avatar, Cameron has announced that three Avatar sequels will be filmed in New Zealand. The NZ Government is so excited that they have offered a Kiwi rebate. They have agreed to defray the cost of production by as much as 25 percent.
The Wellington.scoop reports that New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key made the announcement at the Film Commissions Wellington, NZ offices. Key first confirmed that Lightstorm Entertainment, James Cameron’s American independent film production company responsible for the first Avatar movie, had committed to producing all of the films sequels in Wellington—known to production crews around the world as the location for much of the shooting of the Lord of the Ring trilogy.
The announcement of New Zealand’s next great on-location production follows closely on the heels of the government’s decision to increase the current 15 percent rebate offered to international filmmakers to 20 percent.
The incentive is meant to encourage and secure more television and screen productions in New Zealand. The Avatar films themselves are expected to “provide hundreds of jobs and thousands of hours of work directly in the screen sector as well as jobs right across the economy,” said Steven Joyce, New Zealand’s Economic Development Minister.
James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment will have access to additional incentives as well as the 20 percent rebate, however, based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the production company and the host country. If the MoU is followed closely, the Avatar sequels would be entitled to an additional five percent production rebate.
This means that, if all goes according to the agreement, James Cameron’s sequels could receive 25 percent of their total production costs directly from the New Zealand Government. Kiwis will actually be paying—up to one quarter—of the costs of the Avatar Sequels.
How much that will actually amount to has not been disclosed at this point as neither Cameron nor his independent production company—the same company responsible for the production of Terminator 2, The Abyss, and Titanic among other titles—has released a projected budget.
The MoU sets a minimum amount, however. The list of requirements includes at least the following:
- Lighthouse Entertainment / Cameron must spend at least NZ$500 million on the production of the movies in New Zealand
- Most of the live action shooting must take place in NZ
- Most of the visual effects must be produced in NZ
- Approximately 90 percent of the production crew is expected to be hired from NZ film industry professionals
The first Avatar movie has been speculated to have cost $400-500 million dollars to produce, and its world gross profits were approximately $2.8 billion.
Though Cameron has not shown his cards in relation to the planned cost of the Avatar sequels, he has gone on record as estimating that technology and economies of scale will allow him to keep production under $1 billion.
If that number is anywhere close to actual costs, New Zealand would, according to the MoU, be providing upwards of $250 million to guarantee that their economy profits from the local production of the highly anticipated movies.
It has been noted that New Zealand’s hopes of mining economic gold from the creation of these computer generated epic movies is similar to the hopes of the first Avatar movie’s mining corporation. They too hoped that bringing in experts from outside would reap much in the way of monetary reward. The only difference is that the New Zealand government isn’t trying to displace natives in doing so. The Kiwis are offering pay rebate to the production company that is willing to bring the “treasure” to them.
Cameron’s first Avatar sequel is scheduled for completion by Christmas 2016 with the next two releasing in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
By Matt Darjany