“Avatar 2,” a sequel to the sci-fi epic “Avatar,” is to be released for the Christmas holidays in 2017, the first of three sequels to the 2009 blockbuster, Fox CEO Jim Gianopulos confirmed. He said he expects the other sequels to open in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

The reason for the eight-year gap between original and the sequel is director James Cameron, who Gianopulos said “has his own pace," Variety reported.

Gianopulos said when Cameron first pitched the idea of “Avatar” the executives at “Fox” were mystified. There was a lot riding on the film, which cost $237 million.

“There was that moment when Jim Cameron said 10-foot blue people with tails. In the first movie he created technology that was so far ahead of its time. Of course now he’s gone past that. … All the pieces are in place. The story is being finalized,” he said.

“Avatar 2” will have numerous sets. Gianopulos said he saw varied “images, characters and worlds,” scattered all over the room when he met Cameron in his New Zealand office.

Cameron is directing from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. The cast includes Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and Stephen Lang. The three sequels are to be filmed simultaneously.

“Avatar” premiered Dec. 10, 2009, in London and was released worldwide Dec. 16, 2009. It received positive critical reviews for the poignant story and extraordinary visual effects and broke several box office records, becoming the highest grossing film of all time. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.