Fox mulling 'Avatar' summer re-release

7:00 PM PST 03/11/2010 by Alex Ben Block, AP

Fox, Cameron in discussions; additional scenes being eyed

Get ready for "Avatar"-plus. 

James Cameron and Fox are in discussions about rereleasing "Avatar," primarily in 3D theaters, in late summer -- and, tantalizingly, with additional scenes that had been left on the cutting-room floor in the rush to ready the epic for its Dec. 18 release.

The impetus for a rerelease is the feeling that, even though "Avatar" is the highest-grossing movie of all time, producers could have raked in even more money had they been able to hold on to the digital and Imax 3D screens that were lost when Disney opened "Alice in Wonderland" in 3D on March 5.

As for how much additional footage Cameron might add to "Avatar," the guessing began early Thursday when Imax CEO Richard Gelfond said during a Gabelli & Co. investor conference in New York that Cameron had about 40 minutes of additional material that didn't make the theatrical cut. He also predicted a rerelease, which he said probably would occur in the fall.

Cameron had said that he had 10-12 minutes of extra scenes that he cut and could quickly put through postproduction and have ready to add to a director's cut for a theatrical reissue or as an extra on the DVD release. One scene has to do with Jake Sully's avatar proving himself to the Na'vi people; the other involves a native festival during which tribe member Tsu'tey gets drunk.

The maximum length a movie can be released in analog Imax theaters is 170 minutes -- a number Cameron was aware of when he made his original edit -- so he could add about 10 minutes to the 160-minute current run time and still be in all Imax locations. That seems more likely than trying to add as much as 40 minutes.

The week before "Alice" arrived, Fox's movie still was minting millions in 2,456 North American theaters, including 179 Imax sites. This week, it dropped to a theater count of 2,163, including 667 digital 3D and eight Imax 3D locations, resulting in a 41% week-over-week drop in grosses.

Through March 4, "Avatar" had grossed $127.1 million of its $712.5 million domestic haul in Imax theaters; this week's giant-screen take was $175,884.

"Avatar" has done more than 80% of its domestic business in 3D theaters, which represented fewer than half of its runs.

The film also has grossed $1.9 billion outside North America for a total of about $2.6 billion. It has helped expand 3D globally and broken records worldwide.

When "Avatar" was forced off Imax screens -- after the longest and most lucrative run in Imax history -- to accommodate "Alice," Fox saw increased grosses on nearby digital 3D screens, an indication that demand remains.

How much did the film leave behind? Cameron was in New York this week for a demonstration of 3D TV and told USA Today, "The word we're getting back from exhibitors is we probably left a couple hundred million dollars on the table as a result."

The summer rerelease would follow an expected home video premiere in 2D form, which will happen as soon as next month and no later than May. Fox has made no official announcement about a release date for the 2D DVD.

Cameron told USA Today there might be a Blu-ray Disc release of the 3D version for home use as early as the fall, but Fox studio sources indicate that is unlikely. They believe there won't be enough of an installed base of 3D TV sets to make that worthwhile and said it is more likely to come next year.

Cameron and Fox also are in discussions about one or two sequels to "Avatar" that would use many of the digital "assets" that were created for the original. There is no script or deal in place, but the filmmaker and studio have indicated that it is something they would like to do.

Georg Szalai in New York contributed to this report.
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