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Cirque du soleil teaming up with James Cameron for 'Avatar' live show

MONTREAL - The Cirque du soleil and James Cameron are teaming up to develop a live show based on the film director's revolutionary movie "Avatar," bringing the Na'vi people and their homeland of Pandora to life.

Cameron and Cirque du soleil president Daniel Lamarre announced the new project at a news conference in Montreal on Thursday at the C2MTL Commerce and Creativity business conference.

Lamarre said there is a creative challenge involved in bringing "Avatar" to the stage and there's big money attached to the production, although he wouldn't specify a dollar amount.

He would only say "Avatar" will cost as much or more as some of the company's bigger productions and will be developed in Montreal.

"We have to deliver to the level of James Cameron, which is not easy, but that's the challenge we gave to ourselves," Lamarre said.

The theatrical show inspired by the highest-grossing movie of all time is set to premiere in Montreal in late 2015 and to play venues in 350 different cities around the world over several years.

It's a second collaboration between the Canadian-born Cameron and the Cirque. The veteran filmmaker served as executive producer and camera operator in the 2012 3D film "Cirque du soleil: Worlds Away."

"For me it was all about 3D and trying to capture the magic of a Cirque de soleil show in 3D and bring it to a movie audience," Cameron said of the film, which received mixed reviews.

Cameron said the project was important because it allowed the two sides to get to know each other.

"I think we were artistically successful, but I think what we see is that there's something that is the true magic of a Cirque du soleil live show that can't be captured on film and must be experienced in person," Cameron said.

Now, they'll join forces again on the "Avatar" project, which has been discussed for two years.

The film "Avatar," released in 2009, is the highest grossing movie of all time, with a world-wide box office take of $2.8 billion.

Cameron said he has high hopes for the global-touring arena show, which will debut just as the highly anticipated film sequels are expected to be released in theatres.

Three "Avatar" film sequels are in the works, tentatively expected to be released between 2016 and 2018.

The visually stunning original film is set in the mid-22nd century. In it, humans are mining on Pandora, a moon that is also home to the Na'vi, the local humanoid natives who inhabit the planet.

The humans interact with the massive blue natives using an "Avatar," an engineered body with which humans are able to meld.

Cameron said the Cirque has a history of transporting their audiences to a different world, making the "Avatar" inspired show a perfect fit.

"I know there's going to be a real focus on creating that kind of visual beauty and that sense of wonder and the transport to another world, and that's what it is all about," Cameron said. "We hope to create an experience that's going to be absolutely unique for a global audience."

The Montreal-based Cirque du soleil will team with Cameron's and Jon Landau's Lightstorm Entertainment for the live project. Twentieth Century Fox, which financed and distributed "Avatar," is also a partner on the live show.

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