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Three 'Avatar' sequels to be made in New Zealand: government

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. film companies 20th Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment will make the next three movies in the science fiction "Avatar" series in New Zealand, spending NZ$500 million ($413 million) on live action and visual effects.

The agreement comes after the New Zealand government hiked film industry tax rebates to up to 25 percent from the current 15 percent.

"The Avatar sequels will provide hundreds of jobs and thousands of hours of work directly in the screen sector as well as jobs right across the economy," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said in a statement.

New Zealand will also host one "red carpet" premiere, with the producers also agreeing to promote the country as a tourist destination, and film making venue.

The original "Avatar", which was nominated for nine Oscars and won three in 2010, was partly made in New Zealand, with special effects done at Weta Digital, which also worked on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Hobbit series.

"Avatar" director James Cameron has a farm in New Zealand.

Movie studio 20th Century Fox is a division of Twenty First Century Fox Inc. Cameron is a founder of Lightstorm Entertainment.

($1 = 1.2105 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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