Before the long-awaited sequel. Avatar: The Way of Water (December 16), James Cameron’s original sci-fi adventure Avatar returns to theaters on September 23 in 4K High Dynamic Range.

The Na’vi return to the big screen this weekend as Disney looks to rekindle interest in its newly acquired Avatar franchise, three months before the debut of the long-delayed sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Bringing the highest-grossing movie of all time back to theaters serves two purposes for Disney: to increase excitement for “The Way of Water” and to fill a vacant spot on the theatrical calendar. The sequel is one of four planned for the next decade.

The re-release of the original film is a litmus test of sorts as to whether audiences still want to visit its eco-conscious sci-fi world.

“Many questions have been asked about the film’s pop culture legacy over the past decade, but we also need to remember that James Cameron has been doubted before and many have been proven wrong,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at

Directed by Cameron, the mastermind behind “Titanic” and “The Terminator,” “Avatar” opened in late 2009 to widespread acclaim and massive financial success, ultimately earning nine Oscar nominations. But it never captured the cultural relevance that Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both also owned by Disney, have enjoyed. Toy sales have faded and cosplayers donning heavy blue makeup at pop culture fan conventions have become few and far between.

“Naturally, all eyes will be on the box office performance this weekend, as this can serve as an indicator of audience interest in the December release of ‘The Way of Water,'” said Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore.

“Avatar” wowed audiences more than a decade ago, in part because of the technology Cameron helped develop to shoot and animate the film. The film was shot using the Fusion camera system, which was created by Cameron and cinematographer Vince Pace. Academy Award-nominated films such as Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” also used this camera system.

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