Chattanooga, Tenn. (Sept. 15, 2022) – When it comes to using 3D imagery to tell cinematic stories, James Cameron didn’t exactly invent the wheel, but he did take a decades-old idea to all new levels with the creation of his sci-fi opus, Avatar.
When Avatar premiered in 2009, it set off a boom of excitement among filmmakers seeking to capitalize on its rampant success. It also opened a lot of eyes — not to mention wallets — to the legitimacy of 3D as a storytelling device in movies and video games. At the time, many heralded it as a sneak peek into the future of cinema.
Now, in anticipation of the Dec. 16 release of Avatar’s long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron’s epic original is making the rounds once more for a special limited re-release featuring a remaster of the film to 4K and with high-dynamic range color for even more vibrant visuals.
Longtime fans and newcomers, alike, can travel to the lush wilds of the moon of Pandora at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater, where the film will be presented in a series of special screenings beginning September 23. Naturally, these shows will be in 3D.
The film’s return to theaters is a chance for a new generation to experience a modern classic combining a stunning otherworldly setting with a reverence for the environment that’s distinctly terrestrial, Cameron said during a Sept. 13 news conference.
“[In Avatar,] I think people found a universal human experience that they could relate to,” he said. “And there’s one other thing, which is, when we were kids, we just innately loved nature and animals. As our lives progress, we go more and more away from nature.”
Avatar is set on an alien rainforest moon populated by towering humanoids called Na’vi who share an intimate connection to their world’s vibrant wildlife. The film explores the implications of a human invasion and exploitation of this verdant land, during which an injured soldier (Sam Worthington) connects his consciousness to an avatar — a genetically engineered body — to learn firsthand what life as a Na’vi is like. The film’s ensemble cast also includes Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang and Giovanni Ribisi.
In addition to a Best Picture nod at the Academy Awards (where it won three of its nine nominations), Avatar destroyed sales records, becoming the first film to pass $2 billion at the box office. After briefly losing its top-dog status to Avengers: End Game in 2019, a limited Chinese re-release of Avatar re-established its place on the throne in 2021 with total sales of more than $2.847 billion.
Avatar’s return to theaters couldn’t come at a more opportune time for Chattanooga cinephiles. Since the original release of the film, the IMAX 3D Theater — home to the city’s largest screen — underwent a dramatic technological overhaul to an IMAX with Laser projection system in 2016. The theater’s dual 4K laser projectors and 12-channel surround audio will present Cameron’s sci-fi masterpiece with more thunderous audio and brighter, crisper and more colorful visuals than were possible during its initial theatrical run.
The theater’s massive, 5,874-square foot screen will also be brand new by the time Avatar arrives. Taking down and installing a screen with twice the footprint of the average American home is an elaborate undertaking that will occur today and tomorrow, Sept. 15-16. The theater will be closed during the installation process.
The new screen also will offer a pristine canvas on which to display new and in-production offerings by filmmakers and studios visiting Chattanooga as part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) annual conference. The IMAX 3D Theater will host the conference Sept. 28-30, attracting giant-screen industry representatives from around the world to the Scenic City. The theater will be closed to the public Sept. 26-30.
“Normally, theaters replace their screens every 10 years or so,” says IMAX Senior Operator and Manager Corey Cobb. “We’re changing ours out even sooner to ensure our audiences and visiting giant-screen industry leaders enjoy the best viewing experience possible, now and into the future.”
Avatar is rated PG-13 and has a runtime of 165 minutes (2 hours 45 minutes). For more information about its return to theaters or to purchase tickets in advance, visit tnaqua.org/imax/avatar-3d.
To learn more about IMAX with Laser, visit imax.com/news/imax-laser-here.
Avatar showtimes (Eastern):
September 23 at 6:30 pm
September 24 & 25 at 3:30 pm and 7:15 pm
October 1 & 2 at 3:30 pm and 7:15 pm
Please note: The Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater will be closed September 26 – 30 for the Giant Screen Cinema Association’s International Conference.