Wellington Scoop

3 Avatar movies confirmed for Wellington – $500m to be spent on production

Photo via Twitter from Celia Wade-Brown

The Prime Minister chose the Film Commission’s Wellington offices as the venue to announce this morning that the three Avatar sequels are to be made here.


The director of the films, Canadian James Cameron, sat behind Mr Key as the announcement was made, and spoke after the Prime Minister.

Why was the Prime Minister making the announcement? It was because of the government’s decision to increase the baseline rebate for international productions from 15% – 20%.

News from NZ Government
The Government today announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation that will see the next three Avatar films made in New Zealand.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister John Key, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson in Wellington alongside Avatar Director James Cameron, Producer Jon Landau, and Twentieth Century Fox Film co-President of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing and Distribution Paul Hanneman.

“This is excellent news for the New Zealand screen industry. The Avatar sequels will provide hundreds of jobs and thousands of hours of work directly in the screen sector as well as jobs right across the economy,” Mr Joyce says. “They will be a very big boost to the screen industry while we look to develop more New Zealand-sourced productions.”

The MoU follows the separate announcement today by the Government that it is boosting screen production incentives for both overseas and New Zealand productions to encourage more film and TV to be made in New Zealand and the development of a more sustainable New Zealand screen industry.

This includes raising the baseline rebate from 15 per cent to 20 per cent. Productions will get points for specific benefits to New Zealand, which may entitle some to an extra 5 per cent rebate.

Provided the new Avatar films fulfil the requirements set out in the MoU, they will qualify for a total rebate of 25 per cent.

Signing the MOU. From left: Chris Finlayson, Steven Joyce, James Cameron, producer Jon Landau, Paul Hanneman of 20th Century Fox

The MoU provides:

· A commitment by both parties to grow the screen sector in New Zealand and to building a long term and productive relationship between the Crown and Lightstorm/Twentieth Century Fox.

· Spending of at least NZ$500 million on production activity in New Zealand, including most of the live action shooting and visual effects.

· Employment and skills opportunities for New Zealanders, including in Head of Department roles. Around 90 per cent of live action crew are expected to be New Zealanders. Alongside this, an internship programme will be supported.

· New Zealand hosting at least one official red carpet premiere, and a featurette on New Zealand being included in DVDs and Blu Rays.

· An offer by James Cameron and Jon Landau to serve as founding members of a new screen advisory board, which will provide advice and guidance to New Zealand screen and film makers looking to succeed internationally.

· Marketing and promotion of New Zealand and its film industry alongside the three Avatar films, transferring technological know-how to New Zealanders, and retaining screen production infrastructure in New Zealand that could be used for industry training.

“The filming of the Avatar films will be of substantial benefit to New Zealand economically and culturally,” Mr Finlayson says. “Besides the confidence being shown in the talented people who work in the our screen industry, the commitment by James Cameron, Lightstorm and Twentieth Century Fox to work with the Government to help grow the local industry is significant and will help ensure it is sustainable longer term.”

First of the three films to be released at Christmas 2016

Improved incentives for local as well as international productions

November 16:
Peter Jackson dines with John Key

August 2:
Three Avatar sequels announced for Weta Digital


  1. Jonathan King, 16. December 2013, 11:13

    How odd: an announcement about James Cameron’s new trilogy in front of a whole lot of posters of NZ films. I fail to see the connection. [via Twitter]

  2. Dave Armstrong, 16. December 2013, 11:17

    Number 2 will be called Avataxrebate.[via Twitter]

  3. John Walters, 16. December 2013, 13:03

    Shouldn’t this say ‘Confirmed for New Zealand’ and not just Wellington. [20th Century Fox has already announced that visual effects for all 3 films will be carried out at Weta Digital, which won many awards for its work on the original Avatar. ]

  4. Albert Tatlock, 16. December 2013, 18:50

    The incarnate teacher divine JC receives a hand-out from his new homeland. Now how long before JC buys another chunk of god’s own?

  5. Nigel Everyman, 17. December 2013, 7:58

    Without Weta, Wellington would have dried up and blown away years ago. Without Weta, NZ would have no film industry, let alone one that is both sought out to finish other people’s films and highly respected for its innovations.

    Weta is the only NZ industry that attracts top flight talent (at lower pay and willing to forgo lower quality of life) from around the world.

    Weta is one of (perhaps the) greenest export industries that NZ has. Anyone who bitches about any of this is a fool.

  6. Albert Tatlock, 17. December 2013, 9:27

    Lower quality of life? Really Nigel. How about living in Bollywood – can’t say that appeals. And top rate talent? Weta may have brilliant computer geeks who can do wizzo computer animations but they are not brain surgeons.

    I grow nut trees – can I have a tax break please so I can compete with James Cameron who has just bought a big walnut farm?

  7. Nigel Everyman, 17. December 2013, 10:19

    Not everyone can live off clean air and water and isolation and smallness and limited choice and opportunity. Intellectual and cultural stimulation and diversity are important to some people too. Particularly those who are in demand globally for their skills and talents. A lot come here for Weta’s work and take major cuts in salary compared to elsewhere. They come here by choice (unfortunately because there aren’t enough qualified Kiwis to do that highly skilled work).

    There are probably more PHDs at Weta than all the rest of NZ combined, with degrees from first rate universities. Many others may lack those credentials, but are as skilled and talented. Between them all, many, many could have been brain surgeons if they had chosen that, but they chose different forms of creativity.

    I grow hazelnuts and chestnuts and walnuts too, to make my own garden sustainable for my family’s future. Were I doing this professionally, there are plenty of tax breaks I could use were I running a nut farm as a business. The point being, how many jobs are your walnuts producing in NZ? How much income is your nut farm dragging back to NZ from elsewhere in the world? How much income from employed people on your nutfarm is going back into the economy or via taxes to the govt?

    And the biggest point is: do we want a future determined by nut farmers selling commodities that many other places can do better and cheaper? Or do we want smart people here creating an industry that maybe will sustain our children’s future at first world levels?

  8. Magoo, 17. December 2013, 16:09

    The co-leader of the Greens Russel Norman has slagged the subsidy – that will allow thousands to participate in paid employment for the thick end of a decade.

    Well Dr No to everything – he lives in Hataitai, that’s part of the Rongotai electorate, the same electorate that Miramar is in, where many of the beneficiaries of the film industry live. Slagging-off something that massively assists people in your home electorate, yeah, that’s bright….. even the blind man & his dog who vote for him how must surely rethink.

  9. Albert Tatlock, 17. December 2013, 17:49

    Thanks Nigel, being a not too bright nut farmer who can’t afford an expensive townie accountant can you tell me how I can apply for a tax break like JC and that Hobbit chap up the road?

  10. Michael, 17. December 2013, 18:18

    Nigel, you are dead right. If the films went offshore, people would be saying the government got it wrong.

    I live on the south coast and it is a vibrant place because of the film industry here. You only have to go downtown in Wellington to see how the money is being spent.

    Bring it on.

  11. CC, 18. December 2013, 5:29

    Now wait for the curmudgeonly Chamber of Commerce and other sundry moaners to complain about having to pay taxes to subsidise the bludger class in downtown Wellington. Oh yeah – it’s all right, THEY aren’t on the dole! We can save film-makers but not those that can build world class trains.