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Avatar is returning to theaters, but disappearing from Disney Plus


Avatar: The Way of Water is set to release this December, but it has a pretty major problem: it’s a sequel to a film that came out 13 years ago. Meanwhile, most of us can barely remember what happened on last week’s episode of She-Hulk — when Avatar 2 hits theaters, there could be a lot of confusion if characters start talking about unobtanium, Toruks, RDA, or the Noble Clyde Boudreaux. (One of those things isn’t actually in the movie — see if you can guess which one.)

James Cameron and crew, however, have come up with a solution: rerelease the first Avatar in theaters. According to a trailer released on Tuesday, the 2009 movie is coming back to theaters for two weeks starting September 23rd and will be shown in “all formats,” including IMAX, 4K / HDR, and — of course — 3D.

That last point is a big one. Sure, theoretically people could watch it at home to catch up before heading out to see the new one, but almost nobody is going to have the equipment to actually watch it in the way it was meant to be watched, with a pair of 3D glasses strapped to their face. Also, I say theoretically because watching it at home has gotten a lot harder, because Disney’s removed Avatar from its Disney Plus streaming service. While Disney didn’t immediately reply to The Verge’s request for comment on when it’ll be available again, a report from Variety cites sources claiming it’ll come back before The Way of Water’s release date. The movie is still currently available to rent on services like Apple TV or YouTube.

If Disney’s ploy to force you into a theater to re-watch Avatar is successful, you’ll be able to get that full experience like it was 2009 again, without having over a decade to forget all the jargon and world-building. (Well, almost the full experience — you won’t have the “pleasure” of listening to “Boom Boom Pow” or “Poker Face” on the radio as you drive home from the theater to write an angry forum post about James Cameron making “unobtanium” a real plot point in a sci-fi movie.)

Movies coming back to theaters to prepare you for a sequel isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon — I remember attending a screening of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight on The Dark Knight Rises’ opening night, and some theaters have done similar things for Marvel movie releases. Even James Cameron’s no stranger to the theatrical rerelease; Titanic has come back to theaters before and is set to do so again next year — though, obviously, that’s not because it’s getting a sequel. For most movies, though, seeing the prequels is a luxury; because of how complex Avatar was and how long it’s been since it was released, it kind of feels like required reading this time.

Update August 23rd, 7:53PM ET: Added information about Disney removing Avatar from Disney Plus.

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