Jun05

'Avatar' sequels to be filmed at Manhattan Beach studio

The next two installments of the highest-grossing film in history will be made in Manhattan Beach, representatives from James Cameron's production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, confirmed Wednesday.

The two sequels to the 2009 3-D blockbuster "Avatar" will be shot and produced at the Manhattan Beach Studios Media Campus, the sprawling facility formerly known as Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studios and located at 1600 Rosecrans Ave.

"Avatar," the 2009 3-D science fiction epic, took home three Academy Awards and grossed more than $2.7 billion at the box office.

The five-year deal was first signed in April and financial terms of the lease were not available.

In a statement, Lightstorm Entertainment executives said they chose to produce the film in the seaside community because of its central location and the facilities offered by the MBS Media campus. Lightstorm Entertainment is expected to bring about 200 employees to the area.

"The MBS Media Campus provides us with the technological infrastructure, complete array of production services and location near LAX that make the campus a perfect fit for our next two Avatar projects," said Jon Landau, who co-produced the first "Avatar" film with Cameron.

Cameron's production company will lease more than 115,000 square feet of sound stage and production office space at the campus, a 22-acre production lot owned by the Carlyle Group and managed by Raleigh Studios. The complex will be used for the motion capture photography and production of the two Avatar sequels. It houses 15 sound stages, a screening room and an outdoor mock-up of a New York City street. In addition to sound stages and office space, the complex features post-production facilities and screening rooms.

MBS Media Campus is the headquarters of Marvel Studios and was the production location of "Iron Man 2" and "Thor."

In a statement released after news of the high-profile deal was first reported, Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery said he welcomed the world-renowned director to the city.

"In this economy, we appreciate both the honor and economic impact of having (Cameron) locate Lightstorm here in Manhattan Beach for the foreseeable future," Montgomery said.

Lightstorm Entertainment was previously based in Santa Monica, although much of the original "Avatar" film was produced in Playa Vista and shot in New Zealand. The company will keep some office space in Santa Monica.

The production company has also produced "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "True Lies" and "Titanic."

Before settling on the massive MBS Media Campus complex in Manhattan Beach, Cameron's production company was considering producing the films in a business park in Agoura Hills.

"Avatar 2" is expected to be released in December 2014 and "Avatar 3" a year later.

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