“We’re making four epic [Avatar] films that stand alone but together form a saga. These movies were designed to be seen in theaters first,” said Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron, making a special appearance today at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Originally, Cameron believed that there would be three, but now Avatar 2 will be released at Christmas 2018 with sequels following at Christmastime in 2020 and 2022 and 2023.

avatar big pic“I’ve been working with the top four screenwriters and designers in the world to design the world of Avatar going forward,” he said. “The environments, new cultures — whatever it takes to bring it to life. From what I’m seeing of the art on the wall … in pure imagination is just beyond the first film. I’m speechless.”

Before announcing the big news, Cameron banged the gavel down on the big elephant in the room that everyone has been winking and knocking to onstage: day-and-date VOD streaming service the Screening Room. In earlier CinemaCon sessions this week, execs never uttered the company’s name, but Cameron came out in full force.

“Our jobs as filmmakers is to keep making films onscreen,” he told the crowd. “We’ll continue to make this industry the greatest show on Earth. My producer Jon Landau and I are committed to the theater experience. Despite what the folks at the Screening Room say, I think movies need to be offered in the theater on opening day. So boom.”

He continued: “There’s an important point that needs to be made. There’s always been a threat with moviegoing, whether that’s been video, DVD or streaming. … We answer it by being great with our showmanship. We create things by being great in the movie theater. I want to give exhibition a shout-out for keeping the experience sacred: making the sound better, the chairs comfier — whatever it takes to get people to get in their cars to go across town.”

And most of all, Cameron stressed, the next Avatar saga is meant “to be seen in the theater.”