Avatar Sequels To Film In New Zealand; Producer Jon Landau Tells Us Why

You know those  Avatar sequels that you’ve been patiently waiting for? Well, the next three entries in the sci-fi saga will be shot in New Zealand–which is causing a bigger commotion than you’d expect. A lot of epic films get shot in New Zealand. The world certainly began to pay attention to the country’s resources there after Peter Jackson directed his Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand about a decade ago.

Actually, that includes the first Avatar movie back in 2009. There was some principal photography done in the capital city of Wellington–which is where director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau returned to make their big announcement on Monday.

Since then, it’s mostly been left to various authorities in New Zealand to explain how the country landed the Avatar sequels. We got the returning Landau on the phone, though, and he took the time to expand on the simple math. It’s even simple enough math for the COED staff to follow, which is leaving Landau a little baffled at Hollywood’s reaction.

“We’re getting a 25% rebate on everything we spend in New Zealand,” Landau explained to us by phone. “That includes labor, expendables, and catering. California has a 10% state income tax, and they can’t even rebate that. We’re probably going to spend a minimum of $412 million for these three productions. That’s going to add up to over $100 million that we save.”

We’re not even sure what “expendables” mean, but we know that $100 million would be enough to make a fourth (low-budget) Avatar movie. And we understand that the production team of Cameron and Landau are known for their high standards, and New Zealand’s prestigious Weta Digital company really came through for the first Avatar film.

“Weta did all of our digital effects for the first Avatar,” agrees Landau, “and they’re world-class. Different states in America offer tax incentives, and we’ve explored those–but with the tax rebate that New Zealand is offering, we just can’t justify keeping the production in America.”

We’re sold–mainly because $100 million is a lot of money even to us. Also, we’ve been worrying about New Zealand ever since Peter Jackson began wrapping up his own Hobbit trilogy. The Avatar production team just gave a lot of New Zealanders a very merry Christmas–and, as sci-fi geeks, it’ll be a happy new year for us if those sequels finally get shooting.