Jon Landau On How Sequel Survived Disney-Fox Merger, Pandemic & More – Deadline

Warning: This podcast contains minor spoilers about Avatar: The Way of Water
Despite being the highest grossing movie ever at $2.9 billion, Avatar isn’t your run-of-the-mill franchise.

It doesn’t have the Star Wars toys sales, nor does it have the rabid fandom associated with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. How can a series like this maintain its momentum 13 years after the first movie was released? Especially a movie about blue aliens? Producer Jon Landau provides insight to the series’ appeal on Crew Call today.

You can listen to our conversation below:

Avatar: The Way of Water has survived a corporate merger, multiple delays, the year-long closure of exhibition and the pandemic itself.

In regards to the sequel staying relevant, Landau likes to say, “If you make a good movie, people are going to come back.”

“We’re a third of the amount of time that it took for (Top Gun): Maverick to come back,” he adds.

“What Jim has done in the Avatar Pandora world, he’s put in timeless stories with universal themes,” Landau tells us.

“Imperial forces coming back and invading an indigenous population. Those things don’t go away. In some ways what he wrote years ago, is more timely today,” the producer explains.

“If you think about this, the Sullys are refugees. They are forced to flee their home and seek refuge in a clan that doesn’t look like them,” explains Landau.

While Avatar: The Way of Water came in under its weekend projections, opening at $134.1M stateside and under a half billion worldwide, many consider that largely due to the high demand for and low supply of premium auditoriums (i.e. Imax and Dolby) which is where audiences are buying out seats. The pic’s midweek grosses have held up and all eyes are on Avatar 2‘s potential holding pattern through the holiday.

Cameron and Landau are set on changing the narrative of cinema, from saying “I saw a movie to I experienced a movie,” says the Titanic Oscar winning producer.

While the pandemic closed movie theaters and prompted streamers to turn consumer viewing habits upside down, Landau is confident about the big screen winning out.

He paraphrases a New York Times article from March 1983.

“‘Entertainment can be had today at a cut-rate at home, and that’s exactly the way people are going to see their movies: The entertainment business as we know it is going to die,’” recalls the producer.

“I’m sure there was a similar article in ’56 for television,” he continues, “Let’s make an analogy to the music industry. We can do Spotify, we can do Pandora, we can do all these things, (but) nothing replaces the live concert. Cinema is that experience. Cinema is the live concert equivalent.”

“It’s not just about the communal experiences of it, it’s about the social commitment that you make when you go to the movies. You make a commitment to turn off your phone, to not talk to the people you’re around. I think people crave being part of that social system,” adds Landau.

Landau also expounds on upping the stakes of 3D in Avatar 2, what’s yet to come in Avatar 3 & 4, and more.

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