Before he takes moviegoers deep beneath the Pandoran sea, James Cameron hopes they'll go for an extended tour of the fictional planet he introduced in "Avatar."
"Avatar: Special Edition," which includes 9 minutes of new footage, opens in 3-D theaters worldwide Friday.
"I'm trying to use the technology to keep people interested and enthused about the `Avatar' universe because it's going to be a long time before we get another `Avatar' movie done," the filmmaker said in a recent interview.
Cameron, 56, already has plans for the "Avatar" sequels.
He's also got a submarine to build, cameras for the Mars rover to design, an underwater 3-D camera to upgrade and maybe even an ocean-related feature to make.
But first, he had to select and perfect new "Avatar" footage and persuade distributor 20th Century Fox to rerelease the film theatrically in 3-D.
Cameron said there are "hundreds of thousands, if not millions" of people who wanted to see the movie in 3-D but didn't get the chance because "Avatar" was edged out of 3-D theaters by other scheduled 3-D releases. Since then, the number of available 3-D screens has doubled internationally, he said.
Fox executives said in a statement that they have been "inundated with requests to rerelease the film in theaters in 3-D" since it wrapped its original run in March.
"Avatar" boasts the biggest box-office take in history, collecting $2.7 billion worldwide.
Bringing the movie back to the big screen is an experiment inspired by initial fan response to the movie, Cameron said.
"It was the most pirated film in history at the same time it was the most attended film in movie theaters," he said, adding that some who saw the movie on DVD or on their computer screens may want to enjoy it in all its big-screen, 3-D glory.
The new footage is sprinkled throughout the movie. One bit focuses on the death of one of the planet's native humanoids, the tailed, blue Na'vi. His death is hinted at in the original film, but in the extended version, "We actually see him die," Cameron said.
"Not like he splats to the ground, but how they gather around him afterwards," he said. "It's this big emotional scene and it's actually the best CG we did in the whole movie."
Another scene follows a hunt for one of Pandora's bizarre creatures in a "rousing action-adventure, pulse-pounding kind of scene," he said.
The extended version will appear on a special-edition DVD to be released in November. It will also include a more expanded, "alternate reality version" of the film that is 16 minutes longer than the original, Cameron said.
He has already begun technical development on an "Avatar" sequel that will focus on the planet's ocean environment.
"I love diving," he said, "and if I'm making this movie, I'm not going to be diving as much as I'd like, so I'm going to give myself a kind of methadone fix by doing fantasy ocean."
He will also get a dose of underwater fun in the submarine he's building in Australia. Cameron plans to explore the Pacific's Mariana Trench in a two-seater sub that can go 36,000 feet below the surface.
He's working on upgrading his 3-D underwater camera and is helping build a space-age 3-D camera for the new Mars rover, Curiosity.
"You'll be able to see Mars going by, in 3-D," he said.
He's also working on a 3-D conversion of "Titanic," which he hopes to release in April 2012, the 100-year anniversary of its sailing and sinking.
Cameron is excited by the promise of 3-D and a future in which every screen is dimensionalized — which he thinks is just a few years away.
"You'll still need glasses in the movie theater, but you'll have video, you'll have laptops, all your small devices, the iPads and all that stuff will be without glasses," he said. "We're basically revolutionizing how people watch stuff.
"We're rewriting the contract between humans and screens. The whole world is defined by humans watching screens — we watch screens at work, we watch screens for entertainment — and we're changing it."