Director James Cameron called it a "historic day" when he announced on Dec. 15 that all three films upcoming part of the Avatar trilogy will be filmed in New Zealand.
"We had such a wonderful experience here making the first film, and obviously the result of all of the talent in New Zealand speaks for itself. It's a great pleasure for us to recreate that winning combination," he added.
The project is reportedly worth $412 million in the memorandum of understanding between the New Zealand government, Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. The deal is expected to make a very positive contribution to the country's economy following the success Avatar had in 2009 when it made $2.7 billion at the wordwide box office.
Cameron will be collaborating on the screenplay of the future films with Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (the writing duo behind on Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Shane Salerno (Shaft, Savages).
The first two of the sequels, which already have release dates, will be filmed together and production is expected to begin in 2014. In a statement earlier this year, Cameron revealed that he was adding a third sequel, making it a trilogy.
"In writing the new films, I've come to realize that Avatar's world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated, and it became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen," Cameron said.
The first Avatar sequel is scheduled for release in December 2016, and the second will release in December 2017. While there is no specific month for the third, it is expected to release a year after the second. There has been no confirmed details from the studio or Cameron about casting for the future films, but IMDb has the original Avatar cast listed as stars of the sequel. Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver are reportedly reprising their roles.
The two Hobbit sequels -- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again -- were also filmed in New Zealand.
Watch a trailer for Avatar below.