Ever since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man opened in theaters in 2002, breaking box office records around the world and mainstreaming the superhero genre, Marvel and the various studios holding rights to its characters have successfully reigned over the month of May when it comes to launching blockbusters. Fox and Sony traded years, alternating between X-Men and Spider-Man sequels in the mid-2000s until young Marvel Studios came along in 2008 with an unexpected megahit known as Iron Man which launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it.

After The Avengers continued upping the success by becoming the third highest grossing film of all-time in 2012, and after Iron Man 3 continued the success last summer, Disney and Marvel Studios were quick to lock down the opening May weekends for 2016 and 2017 with release dates for unannounced feature films. With Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment delaying Batman vs. Superman, it now shares one of those very same weekends and we have an epic fight on our hands.

Over the last decade or so, Marvel has traditionally owned May and owned it well, and they plan to continue the trend (up until 2021 according to Marvel Studios’ boss). See for yourself:

  • May 3, 2002 – Spider-Man
  • May 2, 2003 – X-Men 2
  • May 26, 2006 – X-Men: The Last Stand
  • May 4, 2007 – Spider-Man 3
  • May 2, 2008 – Iron Man
  • May 1, 2009 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • May 7, 2010 – Iron Man 2
  • May 6, 2011 – Thor
  • May 4, 2012 – The Avengers
  • May 3, 2013 – Iron Man 3
  • May 2, 2014 – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • May 23, 2014 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • May 1, 2015 – The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • May 6 2016 – Unannounced Marvel Film
  • May 27, 2016 – X-Men: Apocalypse
  • May 5 2017 – Unannounced Marvel Film
  • May 4, 2018 – The Amazing Spider-Man 4

Marvel Movie Crossovers Spider Man Wolverine Avengers Marvel vs. DC: Who Will Surrender Their May 2016 Release Date?

The Hulks, Fantastic Fours and the first Captain America took later summer dates while Daredevil, Elektra, the Blades and Punishers took other dates throughout the year.

On the DC side, the Batman and Superman films (even Green Lantern) have all taken June and July dates, two of which (The Dark Knight & The Dark Knight Rises) earned over a billion dollars. It’s for that reason that Batman vs. Superman (Man of Steel 2) had to delay a whole 10 months since it was originally scheduled for July 17th, 2015, the same weekend where DC saw incredible success previously:

  • July 18, 2008 – The Dark Knight
  • July 20, 2012 – The Dark Knight Rises
  • July 17, 2015 – Batman vs. Superman

While WB and DC would normally love that July 2015 date, if they needed even just a few more weeks of production time, that would mean the film would need a massive delay and that’s what it got. Here’s why: There’s no way the studio would push such a high ticket blockbuster into August where its earnings could practically be cut in half and it’d be financial suicide to go for an otherwise-strong fall date with Disney hosting the return of Star Wars with Episode VII that December, not to mention Lionsgate’s finale of The Hunger Games franchise in November. Do we even need to list the next James Bond and Mission: Impossible installments? How about the sure-to-be-huge animated features Kung Fu Panda 3 and Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur? All of these release late 2015.

2015 is too crowded with big-brand megahits and there’s no room later in the year for Superman and friends. So, looking to 2016, DC took the aggressive approach in planting its Kryptonian feet in the first blockbuster weekend slot – the opening weekend in May where records are meant to be broken. Thing is, Marvel Studios was already planning on putting their second Phase 3 feature film there (the first being Ant-Man in July 2015). While we won’t know that that film is until Marvel Studios hosts a panel at San Diego Comic-Con this July we do know it’s a followup to an established property. According to Marvel boss Kevin Feige, the strategy going forward is to continue releasing two films per year with the first of each pair being a sequel and the second being a new IP.

Superman Batman Cavill Affleck Fan Art Marvel vs. DC: Who Will Surrender Their May 2016 Release Date?

Logic would then dictate that May 2016 is when they want to release Thor 3. Why? Thor 1 launched May 2011 before Captain America: The First Avenger and the character is now their most bankable solo hero since the Iron Man series is over for the time being. Thor 3 would also come before Captain America 3 according to their release schedule thus far.

So now we have a fight on our hands.

Next Page: Batman vs. Superman vs. Thor. Let It Begin.

Batman vs. Superman is scheduled for May 6, 2016.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.

DC vs Marvel Movies Casts Casting Rumors Marvel vs. DC: Who Will Surrender Their May 2016 Release Date?

Marvel Studios, always planning ahead and ensuring big bank, was quick to nab the opening weekend May 2016 release date three years in advance without confirming what that film will be. While there is a plan in place, it’s a seemingly flexible one since Feige and co. continue to remind us that they’re still thinking about what comes next and will be throughout this year until they’re ready to officially announce. Part of that is to not take attention away from their current projects and part of it is to lock down schedules with talent, creatives and shooting locations before they can confirm. Another part of it could be to wait and see how Captain America: The Winter Soldier does in theaters.

The Captain America sequel represents the first pre-summer release by Marvel Studios and serves as a bridge between The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. With insiders reminding us that it has the best script from the studio to date and its trailer and Comic-Con footage blowing our minds it’s possible Cap does better than Thor: The Dark World in theaters and if it does, that could potentially change the ordering of Phase 3. The same can be said for the ambitious Guardians of the Galaxy and its risky August release date – although Marvel will have announced their 2016 and 2017 features before Guardians even hits theaters.

Unless by some miracle Marvel Studios has worked out a deal with Robert Downey Jr. for a fourth Iron Man (they haven’t), it’s Thor or Captain America coming May 2016. Sorry, Hulk. With Man of Steel outperforming Thor 2 ever-so-slightly in 2013, and with the hype and buzz of Supes going head-to-head with Batman in a project that may directly setup Justice League, Marvel cannot outperform Batman vs. Superman at the worldwide box office in May 2016. They would need Iron Man 4 or another Avengers followup which are not in the cards.

Note: It’s possible Marvel Studios holds back a Cap, Thor or Guardians sequel until after The Avengers 3 (Phase 4) and makes room for a Mark Ruffalo solo Hulk movie.

Batman vs Superman Delayed to 2016 Marvel vs. DC: Who Will Surrender Their May 2016 Release Date?

So that leaves us with three options for what’s going to happen in the near future:

  1. Warner Bros., having already proved that their release date is flexible, delays Batman vs. Superman a little more into their proven July release date.
  2. Marvel Studios pushes Thor 3 to later in the summer, or like its predecessor, moves to November.
  3. [The Unlikely Option] WB sticks. Marvel also holds their ground, spends more than ever on marketing, and does so to take as big a bite as possible out of Warner Bros.’ most important DC movie ever.

Who’s Going To Move?

It doesn’t make much sense for both studios to fight over the same weekend, as enjoyable as that would be to watch. So who’s going to back out? Marvel, having not even announced what film is coming that weekend could feasibly move, citing that as a reason for change but that would be in exchange for the bad PR of being the studio who backed down and surrendered at the first sign of danger. If it moved earlier and took an April date like Captain America 2 it would mitigate a bit of that potential bad buzz.

The same could be said for Warner Bros. although that studio has never opened a DC film in May and at this point – is conceivably more flexible. In Hollywood, studios talk so maybe Warner Bros. agrees to move Batman vs. Superman to July if Marvel moves their own July film out of the summer entirely and to November. Warner Bros. can do whatever they want in moving that crucial release date if they coupled it with the announcement of Justice League coming the following year. How epic would that be?

The point is, someone will move. Right now we have Batman vs. Superman vs. Thor vs. X-Men vs. Apocalypse happening in May 2016 and theaters can’t hold that many big budget 3D comic book ‘event’ films. Nor can our minds handle that much potential epicness.

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More: Gal Gadot’s 3-Picture Wonder Woman Deal

Batman vs. Superman is scheduled for May 6, 2016.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.