The highly anticipated blockbuster sequel "Avatar: The Way of Water" by James Cameron will be released in theaters on the Chinese mainland on Dec. 16, according to an announcement by 20th Century Studios on Wednesday.

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A new Chinese poster for "Avatar: The Way of Water." [Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios]

The new installment will be released in several formats on the Chinese mainland, including Cinity 3D, IMAX 3D, Dolby 3D, CGS 3D and standard 3D, on the same date as the United States and many other international markets. It will open a little earlier in the Chinese regions of Hong Kong and Taiwan on Dec. 15 and 14, respectively.

It has been 13 years since the first juggernaut movie was screened in 2009. It became a worldwide cultural phenomenon, officially launched the 3D era for cinemas around the globe, boosted IMAX's development, and changed the Chinese film industry.

The story of "Avatar: The Way of Water" is set a decade after the original, reuniting with Jake while he works with Neytiri and her blue-skinned Na'vi race's army to protect their planet. Audiences will witness the returning hero couple and their children, the trouble that follows them, the lengths they will go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.

The new film will explore the wonderous and spectacular environment of Pandora's ocean, thanks to a new motion capture system specially developed by Cameron for underwater filming. With various cutting-edge technologies, "Avatar: The Way of Water" is set to drive big-screen innovation and push immersive visual effects and 3D to an entirely different level.

The Chinese film market has been starved of content for months due to the on-and-off COVID-19 resurgence and strict prevention measures. "Avatar: The Way of Water" clearly is a strong boost for the film market. However, amid the new pandemic wave, the sector also faces significant challenges and pressures. It remains to be seen how many Chinese cinemas will be open for the much-anticipated "Avatar" sequel.

The 4K remastered version of the original "Avatar" had held a special screening in September at Shanghai Disneyland through China's self-developed advanced projection system Cinity, which will also be a significant format for the China release of "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Meanwhile, a 6-month immersive exhibition, "Avatar: Explore Pandora," is being held in Tomorrowland at Shanghai Disneyland between Sept. 22, 2022, and March 2023.