Disney sets dates for new 'Star Wars' and 'Avatar' films

Los Angeles  - Following its merger with Fox, Disney on Tuesday sketched out its future plans for two of its most towering franchises - the Star Wars saga and Avatar.

Three new as-yet untitled Star Wars films will hit the big screen every other year just before Christmas starting in 2022, the mega-studio announced.

That means that there could be a three-year wait between the December release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final film in the original series begun in 1977, and the next big-screen Star Wars flick.

Several Star Wars projects are in the works, including a trilogy by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of HBO's Game of Thrones, and a separate trilogy by Last Jedi director Rian Johnson.

A spokesperson for Disney, contacted by AFP, did not offer additional details about the upcoming scheduled films, which will expand upon the cinematic universe created by George Lucas.

Disney paid $4bn for Lucasfilm in 2012.

In September last year, Disney CEO Bob Iger admitted after the lackluster performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story, a one-off film in the franchise, that the Star Wars release schedule was too frenetic.

After six films in 38 years, from 1977 to 2005, the rhythm had picked up considerably.

A total of four films came in rapid succession, from the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 to Solo in May 2018.

"I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made - I take the blame - was a little too much, too fast," Iger told The Hollywood Reporter last year.

Meanwhile, the studio pushed back its plans for the next films in director James Cameron's uber-successful Avatar franchise - one of the biggest prizes for Disney in the Fox merger.

Avatar 2 will come a year later than expected in December 2021, followed by Avatar 3 in 2023, Avatar 4 in 2025 and Avatar 5 in 2027.