'Avatar' Sequel Takes Flight

11:37 PM PST 04/13/2011 by Daniel Miller, Alex Ben Block

Cameron forms 3D venture, locks studio space for production.

James Cameron is taking the first steps toward his return to Pandora. While the scripts for Avatar 2 and 3 -- due to bow in December 2014 and '15 -- are still being written, Cameron is busy setting the infrastructure necessary for the ambitious, four-year-filmmaking project. He and partner Vince Pace on April 11 used their National Association of Broadcasters keynote address to announce the formation of a new venture, Cameron-Pace Group. The company, which will facilitate 3D television broadcasting with new technology, also is a rebranding and expansion of the duo's Burbank-based camera venture Pace, which makes the Fusion 3D system that was employed to film Avatar. Cameron, 56, is expected to utilize the new business to develop next-generation techniques for the Avatars -- he says he's considering shooting the films at 48 or 60 frames per second, much higher than the traditional 24 frames per second.

At the same time, Cameron tells THR that his company Lightstorm Entertainment and Avatar distributor Fox have inked a lease at the MBS Media Campus in Manhattan Beach, Calif., which will be home to the motion-capture photography and high-tech production for the sequels. The 580,000-square-foot facility formerly known as Manhattan Beach Studios, which also served as a home base for Marvel's Iron Man 2 and Thor, might also become headquarters of Lightstorm. Its offices in Santa Monica are listed for sale for $11.85 million.

Production of Avatar was centered in Playa Vista at a property now known as the Hercules Campus. Cameron had considered returning to Hercules, but the aging facility is undergoing renovations throughout this year.

And Cameron says he hasn't decided where the live-action footage will be shot. The first film used locations in New Zealand, near where some of the effects work was done at Weta Digital.

Carolyn Giardina contributed to this report.

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