The release of The Avengers in 2012 was an exceptional year for Marvel Studios, not only because it represented the assembling of their heroes for an unprecedented, box office record-breaking team-up event film, but because it was the production house’s only release that year. After Iron Man 2 in 2010, the plan for the young studio going forward was to release two features annually, beginning in 2011 with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, followed by The Avengers and Runaways in 2012.

At the last minute, Marvel canned Runaways however and instead chose to focus all resources towards launching the flagship property of the franchise. Going forward, Marvel Studios is back to at least two films per year, but with so many properties and characters earning attention from fans, executives at Marvel and interested filmmakers, could Marvel expand their capacity to develop three or even four releases per year?

There were always rumors that this could be the case, with additional films coming from micro-budgets and more obscure characters being introduced via short films attached to theatrical releases of Marvel’s major releases, but that hasn’t been the case, at least so far. And as the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands onto television, there’s less of a need to split resources and make four big budget features per year since characters as recognizable as Daredevil can find their live-action origins told on the small screen (see: Marvel-Netflix deal).

When our own Kofi Outlaw spoke with Feige at the Thor: The Dark World junket last fall and asked about Marvel increasing their production capacity to three films per year, he indicated that it’s possible, but unlikely anytime soon.

“There are no plans for it. Sometimes, depending on what’s ready when, it may fall that way, but we’re in a very nice rhythm right now. We’re built – the entire studio is built to confidently deliver two movies per year that we’re proud of.”

Speaking on the same topic last week during the Captain America: The Winter Soldier press junket, specifically on whether or not moviegoers could see more than two films in one year sometime during Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Feige told Badass Digest the same thing, indicating that it would depend on the timing and situation.

“I think television is filling some of that now, in terms of bringing out more product. That’s certainly the idea with the Netflix shows. But I don’t know that we will necessarily say ‘Okay, we’re now moving strategically to three a year, now we’re moving to four a year.’ What I think is more likely – if [knocks on wood-like table] the next group of movies work and people want to see additional stories – we’ll have too many franchises and you can’t do one of each franchise every two or three years. We’d have to move to three a year, but that would have to be a natural move if it were to occur. We’d have a [script] draft, we’d have a filmmaker, we’d have a character the audience wants to see – let’s slot in a place for a third one. Or a fourth one… But it’s hard enough to deliver two quality, hopefully bar-raising movies a year.”

Marvel currently has two unannounced films with summer 2016 release dates, one in 2017 with a guaranteed second coming that year as well, and while we won’t find out what these are until closer to the summer, we do know that there will be one new property introduced in each of the two years. Knowing that, if Marvel Studios follows the plan Feige hinted to us, that means we’re already going to see the start of a problem Feige hinted at in the quote above – that there won’t be room in the current ‘Phase’ structure for timely sequels to all their sub-franchises.

Captain America 3 and Thor 3 are both happening, both have writers, and in the case of the former, even have directors – but if both come in Phase 3, that leaves no room for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 if the plan remains to introduce new properties in each of those years. One of those new properties is unofficially confirmed to be Doctor Strange (Marvel is looking for a director) with the other being the biggest mystery release from the studio to date. Traditionally, reports and leaks made it easy to speculate in the past, but this time around there are so many options, from Black Panther and Ms. Marvel to Planet Hulk, The Inhumans and more.

We continue hearing rumors that Ms. Marvel may yet be another new superpowered hero to be introduced in The Avengers: Age of Ultron – alongside surprise recent addition Vision (Paul Bettany) – with the character a contender to get a movie in Phase 3. Similar to the talk of Scarlett Johansson getting getting a Black Widow standalone feature,  the Ms. Marvel rumor conflicts with what Feige said to Badass Digest about the studio already having a rough idea of what films are coming in 2016-17 and having no current plans for a female-led film among them.

Captain America 3 will be shooting next year and a likely May 2016 release, so if Guardians of the Galaxy is ripe for a Phase 3 sequel it’s possible that Thor 3 is held back until Phase 4, that is, unless we get more movies than we expected which is a definite possibility…

Of course, there’s the curious “merging of brands” that Vin Diesel talked up when describing his meetings with Marvel to potentially play a central character in a new property come 2016-17, one we speculate could be The Inhumans, a film that may tie into some of the things we’re beginning to see in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and what could play a part in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Interestingly, that timeline Diesel hinted at also coincides with what Marvel President of Consumer Products for Marvel Paul Gitter mentioned three years ago about some master plan at Marvel Studios culminating in some sort of event for 2017. Could The Inhumans help bring the Guardians of the Galaxy to earth in time for The Avengers 3?

That’s another question for another day so for now, we wonder if when Marvel begins making some more official Phase 3 announcements, if we could start seeing more than two films per year, sooner rather than later, providing they fit into the master plan and offer something ‘different’ – a requirement for projects according to Kevin Feige. If Captain America keeps getting sequels, and films like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Guardians are all going to get sequels – in between new properties – then Marvel might be forced to release more films per year to avoid long waits in between series installments.

What’s your ideal Phase 3 release schedule? Let us know in the comments!

[Update: The Answer is YES and we’re getting three Marvel Studios movies in 2017. Check out the Phase 3 release dates here!]

More: Marvel Has Movies Planned Through to 2021

Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!

Sources: BD