Debuting in 2009, “Avatar” went on to become Hollywood’s all time top-grossing movie, racking up a worldwide box office of more than $2.9 billion.

With the long-awaited sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water”, set for release on Dec. 16, that places a 13-year span between the first movie and its sequel.

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In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the films’ director, James Cameron, addresses that time gap, and weighs in on how much he thinks it could impact the new movie’s success.

“There’s skepticism in the marketplace around, ‘Oh, did it ever make any real cultural impact?’” he said. ”‘Can anybody even remember the characters’ names?'”

According to Cameron, it’s unfair to compare “Avatar” to the “Star Wars” or Marvel franchises, since “Avatar” was meant to be the first of many movies, setting up the mythology of the franchise to come.

“When you have extraordinary success, you come back within the next three years,” he explained. “That’s just how the industry works. You come back to the well, and you build that cultural impact over time. Marvel had maybe 26 movies to build out a universe, with the characters cross-pollinating. So it’s an irrelevant argument. We’ll see what happens after this film.”

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In fact, Cameron has somewhat grandiose plans for the “Avatar” franchise. “I want to tell an epic story over a number of films. Let’s paint on a bigger canvas. Let’s plan it that way. Let’s do ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Of course, they had the books. I had to write the book first, which isn’t a book, it’s a script,” he explained.

In fact, that’s already well underway, given that Cameron has already shot “Avatar 3”, slated for release in 2024, has begun production on the fourth (due in 2026), and has already written the script for the fifth (2028).

“It’s all written out, stem to stern, four scripts, and fully designed,” Cameron said. “We know exactly where we’re going, if we get the opportunity to do it. And that opportunity will simply be market-driven, if people want it, if they like this movie enough.”

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If there’s public demand, Cameron also has plans for sixth and seventh “Avatar” movies. “I’d be 89 by then,” Cameron said. “Obviously, I’m not going to be able to make ‘Avatar’ movies indefinitely, the amount of energy required.”

With that in mind, he’s already started thinking about who’ll be taking over the franchise from him. “I would have to train somebody how to do this because, I don’t care how smart you are as a director, you don’t know how to do this,” he added.