Blockbuster filmmaker James Cameron, whose films have grossed an astonishing $6 billion in worldwide box office, has hung a $25 million price tag on his sprawling, two-mansion compound in Malibu’s discreet and reclusive Serra Retreat enclave.
The “Avatar” franchise writer/producer/director, who earned three Oscars for the 1997 film “Titanic,” acquired the first property for $3.475 million in 1989, around the time he married his third wife, Oscar winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. He scooped up the neighboring estate in late 2003, several years after he married his fifth and current wife, former model and actor Suzy Amis Cameron, co-founder of an expensive, environmentalism-focused (and vegan) private academy called MUSE School in the mountains between Malibu and Calabasas.
Perhaps the most efficient way to come to terms with the scope and amenities of the prodigious spread is by the numbers. Sitting on almost four-and-a-quarter manicured acres, the two homes together measure close to 16,000 square feet with 11 bedrooms and ten full and three half bathrooms. There are more living and dining areas than makes sense to count, two expensively equipped gourmet kitchens, two swimming pools, two spas and off-street parking for more than two dozen cars with garaging for eight of them.
Listings held by Josh Altman and Matt Altman of The Altman Bros. Team at Douglas Elliman show there are also a plush, state-of-the-art professional screening room, of course, plus a guesthouse and a guard house. The Camerons are dedicated environmentalists committed to a plant-based diet, but the extensive grounds of their vast compound aren’t particularly drought respecting with numerous tiled fountains, lush plantings and vast carpets of lawn, not to mention the two swimming pools and spas. Community homeowner dues tally up to a whopping $4,200 per month, and records show the annual combined tax bill for 2019-2020 is more than $125,000.
Privately and scenically wound through rolling foothills in the heart of Malibu, the Serra Retreat has long been a favorite neighborhood for entertainment industry types. One of the mansions across from Cameron’s compound was previously owned by Olivia Newton John, and the estate next door was owned by Britney Spears and her ex-hubby Kevin Federline before it was sold to “Van Helsing” and “The Mummy” director Stephen Sommers who sold it in 2014 to a corporate concern connected to fitness guru and gym mogul Danny Errico. Mel Gibson once owned a sprawling Serra Retreat estate, and Kelsey Grammer and his former wife, former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Camille Grammer, presided over a huge compound that she retained in their bitter divorce and that was sold about five years ago for almost $13 million to Wendy Hughes, deep-pocketed ex-wife of storage facility billionaire Wayne Hughes, Junior. Some of the current high-profile homeowners in the low-key enclave include Patrick Dempsey, David Charvet and Brooke Burke, Larry Ellison (who owns more houses in Malibu than cats have lives), Dick Van Dyke and rocker Brad Delson of Linkin Park.
One imagines the Cameron clan, who can well afford to live anywhere and in any manner they wish, will wind up in a no less lavish but much more eco-conscious home that more accurately suits and reflects their commitment to environmental conscientiousness. However, it seems unlikely they’ll move to one of the two modest homes they own near Calabasas, one scooped up in 1999 for about $390,000 and the other in 2005 for close to $750,000.
An update – Long before James called it home, one of the compound’s estates appeared in the 1989 Hollywood satire “The Big Picture” as the residence of studio executive Allen Habel (J.T. Walsh) and his wife, Polo (Fran Drescher). New toast-of-the-town director Nick Chapman (Kevin Bacon) attends his first big show biz party there, strolling through the massive manse and its scenic backyard. Incredibly, despite the passage of 30 years, the home still looks much as it did onscreen! The uniquely sculpted fireplaces and broad pool, visible throughout the party scene, have been virtually untouched since filming took place, though Cameron appears to have done away with some decidedly ‘80s tilework in the kitchen.