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Avatar's $2.8 billion worldwide gross pretty much guaranteed there'd be a sequel eventually. Little did anyone know James Cameron's 2009 sci-fi blockbuster would be the start of a sci-fi epic. After a couple delays for the planned sequel trilogy, including a rumor in January that the first sequel was delayed indefinitely, Cameron has announced release dates and the addition of a fourth sequel. 

The first Avatar sequel was originally set to premiere in 2017 after Cameron announced it was being pushed back in 2015. Near the end of 2015 Cameron told Entertainment Weekly he was going over the scripts for all three of the sequels, which were reportedly shot at the same time. He added that by that point the design process for characters and settings was a year and a half in. 

On Thursday Cameron surprised everyone at CinemaCon with an unannounced appearance and then even more so when he announced plans for four Avatar sequels, instead of the previously announced three. 

"We have decided to embark on a truly massive cinematic process," Cameron said according to The Hollywood Reporter. He explained he felt another sequel was crucial in telling this story of Pandora: "We began to bump up against the limitations for our art form."

THR reports Cameron said the sequels would be standalone, but that ultimately they'd fit together for a saga. The first of those sequels will be released Christmas 2018, if Cameron meets his goal. Cameron said the other sequels would be released in 2020, 2022, and 2023. 

The dates strategically dodge upcoming Star Wars releases for Episode VIII and Episode IX premiering December 2017 and 2019 respectively.

"So far, the art I'm seeing is, in pure imagination, really far beyond the first film," said Cameron. "It's going to be a true epic saga."