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James Cameron is making three 'Avatar' sequels, first to be released in December 2016

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Word had been that director James Cameron was working on a pair of sequels to the global hit Avatar, but it appears he's got something even more ambitious in store. Deadline Hollywood reports that Cameron is actually working on three different sequels, all of which will be shot simultaneously — not unlike Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first sequel will be released in December of 2016, with the subsequent films released thereafter on a yearly basis.

While Cameron was the sole credited writer on the original Avatar, he's actually hiring a full set of writers to collaborate with him on this new suite of films. Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds), Shane Salerno (Armageddon, Savages) and the team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) will all be working with Cameron on different films in the series. Weta Digital will be handling much of the film's visual effects, as it did on the original film.

"Building upon the world we created with Avatar has been a rare and incredibly rewarding experience," Cameron said in a statement. "In writing the new films, I've come to realize that Avatar's world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated, and it became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen." The new release schedule will take the first Avatar sequel out of the crowded 2015 schedule — which is currently scheduled to see the release of everything from Avengers: Age of Ultron to Star Wars: Episode VII.