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How HP Will Help Expand the Universe of 'Avatar'

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will provide the computing infrastructure for a "next-generation digital experience" to coincide with three planned sequels.

If you liked the movie “Avatar,” then you may already know that there are three sequels coming up, beginning in 2017 and extending into the 2020s.

But there’s also going to be a big extension of the universe in a digital way. Exactly what that means is hard to say, but I got a glimpse of the idea today from Jon Landau, the producer of the original “Avatar” movie and the COO of Lightstorm Entertainment, the company founded by director James Cameron.

Lightstorm, 20th Century Fox and Hewlett-Packard will later today announce that they are teaming up in a big way to produce what Landau described as a “next-generation digital experience” that will be tied to the coming movies.

The agreement extends through the release of all three sequels, but Landau said it would be intended to last forever, as a means for fans to remain engaged with the “Avatar” franchise. He wouldn’t get specific, but it was pretty clear the plan calls for something big.

“We really had no new content in the marketplace since after the release of the home entertainment cycle,” he said. “But our fan base on Facebook has grown by like 22 million,” since the DVD releases. “That just tells you that people want to engage with Avatar and its themes. … If we can create a digital experience that also conveys those emotional themes they took from the movie, they’re going to return to it.”

You can easily imagine something along the lines of Star Wars Galaxies, the massively multiplayer game that Sony built and operated for eight years ending in 2011. But Landau refused to call it a game. His vision is bigger than that. “I don’t think we’re ready to talk about the specifics,” he said. But the plan calls for “elevating the delivery of global digital entertainment” to new heights that he hopes will change how other entertainment companies promote and engage with consumers.

HP — or, more accurately, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise — will be providing four things: 20th Century Fox will be deploying HP’s Helion hybrid cloud technology, meaning some of the computing gear in use will live on-premise, and when needed HP-managed cloud capacity will be used. HP will also provide security both for the content and for user information. HPE is the half of the current company that will be devoted to corporate and cloud computing after a split planned for Nov. 1.

The experience will also have to be customized in a big way, and that means capturing and analyzing a lot of data. HP will be doing that too. The company will also provide collaboration technology that will make the experience act a bit like a workplace where everyone’s experience is unique to the context in which they participate. Some people will do certain activities in this digital universe that others won’t and so their experiences will vary accordingly. HP describes it as “personal and contextualized.”

“Avatar” debuted in 2009, sold 190 million tickets worldwide and grossed $2.8 billion at the box office. Officially the release dates of the sequels are set for December of 2017 through 2019. But in an interview, Landau said they may take longer.

As for the timing of the digital experience: He wasn’t willing to give any guidance. “It will be ready when it’s ready,” he said.

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