Last March, almost all major film and TV productions were temporarily suspended due to ongoing global pandemic. Amazon Studios’ highly-anticipated Lord of the Rings series and James Cameron’s long-in development Avatar sequels were both affected by the production delay as both projects had been filming in New Zealand. However, after over month, things might already be starting to look up for the two high-profile projects with the New Zealand government releasing new health and safety protocols that will allow productions to finally resume.
Speaking with Deadline, the New Zealand Film Commission has officially confirmed that some film and TV productions “are already safely underway.” In the new protocol, every production in the country will now be required to complete a registration with portal ScreenSafe in order to help the Ministry of Health with contact tracing and WorkSafe with monitoring.
“The NZFC’s focus and commitment since the industry hiatus, has been the health and safety of all those who work in the New Zealand film industry and the ongoing sustainability of the wider screen sector. We are heartened and grateful for the hard work and partnership of the guilds who have worked to get this document completed so quickly.” New Zealand Film Commission CEO Annabelle Sheehan said in a statement.
New Zealand is one of the few countries who have exercised better control on handling the pandemic as they seemingly flattened the curve with only 1,139 COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths recorded.
The highly-anticipated Lord of the Rings series will be set in the Second Age. That places approximately 3,000 years of history between the series and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings. Casual fans may not realize it, but Jackson’s Fellowship of the Rings actually depicted the end of the Second Age, when the last alliance of elves and men confronted Sauron’s forces. The Second Age covered nearly 3,441 years, and it began after the banishment of Morgoth, the dark lord before Sauron. There’s a lot of story potential in that time, including the rise of Sauron, the creation of the One Ring, and the emergence of the Ringwraiths.
The Lord of the Rings series is produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema. It is expected to debut in 2021.
The cast of the Avatar franchise includes Kate Winslet, Edie Falco, Michelle Yeoh, Vin Diesel, Jemaine Clement, and Oona Chaplin alongside a slate of young actors. Returning cast members include Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, Stephen Lang, Matt Gerald, and Sigourney Weaver.
After some shuffling of the schedule, Avatar 2 has been pushed back a full year from December 18, 2020, to December 17, 2021. Avatar 3 has been pushed back two years December 17, 2021 to December 22, 2023. Avatar 4 will open two years after that on December 19, 2025 (originally December 20, 2024) and Avatar 5 will drop on December 17, 2027 (originally December 19, 2025). Although Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 will only be released with director James Cameron’s caveat that Avatar 2 and 3 are successful at the box office.