James Cameron on How ‘Avatar’ Impacted Blockbusters

During the press conference for the ‘Avatar’ re-release, James Cameron detailed how the film impacted modern blockbusters.

When Avatar first hit theaters in 2009, no one could have imagined how big the film would become. Avatar would go on to set the record for the highest-grossing film of all time, passed Titanic‘s gross in a little over a month, and set records for how quickly it hit $500 million and above. To date, Avatar remains the highest-grossing movie of all time with $2.8 billion worldwide. Now, ahead of the long-awaited sequel’s release in December, Disney’s 20th Century Studios is set to re-release Avatar for a limited two-week engagement, allowing fans to see the movie in a brand new light.

To promote the upcoming re-release, writer and director James Cameron was on hand for a virtual press conference, where he recalled Avatar‘s impact on Hollywood. While Avatar was certainly not the first film to use highly advanced computer effects, Avatar did help Hollywood and audiences embrace 3D – at least for a brief moment in time. Although plenty of films failed to successfully make use of 3D technology, Avatar had been shot with a 3D digital camera and went on to earn best cinematography at the 82nd Academy Awards.

I think that there was a…  I would say that the 3D was embraced in general for a period of time.  I mean, Avatar won best cinematography with a 3D digital camera.  No digital camera had ever won the best cinematography Oscar before.  And then two out of the three subsequent years, the same cameras were used by the cinematographers that won the Oscars.  So you’ve got three out of four years where digital cinematography was embraced by the Academy. And all three-all three of those films, three out of four, Oscar winners for four years, were in 3D.  So, and then 3D has sort of, appears to most people to sort of be over.  But it’s really not over.  It’s just been accepted.  It’s just now part of the choices that you face when you go to a theater to see a big blockbuster movie.  So you could choose to see it in 2D, choose to see it in 3D, generally speaking these days.  So I liken it to color.


Cameron goes on to compare the use of 3D to when color was first introduced in movies. While some might’ve attempted the technology prior to Avatar, there is no denying 3D films became popular following the release of Avatar in 3D. Cameron, of course, acknowledges that the 3D format has seemingly died down, but with the release of Avatar: The Way of the Water this December, perhaps that could change yet again.

When color first came out, it was a big deal.  People used to go see movies because they were in color.  You know, and I think around the time of Avatar, people went to see movies because they were in 3D.  Nobody’s gonna go see a movie today because it’s in 3D.  It’s all the other factors by which we choose a film.  So I think, you know, it had an impact on the way films were presented that’s now just sort of accepted and part of the zeitgeist and how it’s done.  Terms of long-term cultural impact, well, I guess we’ll find out if people show up for Avatar 2.


Avatar will be temporarily removed from Disney+ ahead of its re-release in theaters. The re-release will be for two weeks only beginning on Sept. 23rd and will see the film available in stunning 4K High Dynamic Range. Written and directed by Cameron, Avatar stars Sam WorthingtonZoe SaldañaStephen LangMichelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver. The film was produced by Cameron and Jon Landau. The long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of the Water, will finally be released in theaters this December, just in time for the holidays.

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