While disappointing for eager fans, it wasn't all that surprising when Warner Bros. announced that it would be delaying Zack Snyder's Man of Steel sequel - unofficially dubbed and still untitled Batman vs. Superman - into 2016. Relatively lengthier periods of time between followups proved successful for Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight films, and for Man of Steel 2 (featuring Batman and Wonder Woman and more!) they're spending the time to get it right.
It was initially planned for release in July 2015, in a month where Warner Bros. saw major success with their last two Batman movies, and a short delay would mean a release in the less-lucrative month of August or during the intensely overcrowded November-December season. So, instead, WB pushed Batman vs. Superman back a whopping 10 months, to the opening weekend of the 2016 summer blockbuster season - the same weekend Marvel Studios had already scheduled an unannounced film.
The Marvel vs. DC comparisons couldn't get more direct and we were surprised to see Warner Bros. choose not only a month they traditionally do not release DC Entertainment films in, but a weekend where their direct competitor is already releasing a film. What an epic weekend that would be for moviegoers!
We broke down and analyzed the whole situation and history of Marvel and DC film schedules earlier, posing the question of who would surrender that date. It's a certainty that that weekend will bring one of the highest box office takes of 2016, if not, the highest, but would the two studios really release their tentpole big-budget blockbusters directly against each other?
In the end, there were three options - Marvel moves, perhaps to the fall where they saw success in 2013 with Thor: The Dark World; DC Entertainment moves, since they've already shown that the release date of Batman vs. Superman is flexible, or they both stick.
According to Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige, the mastermind of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel isn't going to move. Chatting with /Film today as part of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier junket, Feige said the following:
"We’re certainly keeping the date there and we’ll announce what that movie is, I assume, in the next few months."
He followed up by re-confirming that they'll announce what exactly that film is in the coming months, perhaps at Comic-Con where they usually do, or perhaps even earlier.
At the time of the BvS delay we suspected that the May 2016 release would be for Thor 3, since we know the first film (out of two Marvel Studios releases) each year going forward will be for a sequel to an established property, with the second release date used to launch a new property. In both Phase 1 and 2, Thor preceded Captain America on the release schedule (and earned more money) but in Phase 3, things could be different depending on how The Winter Soldier performs at the box office.
With Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo signing on to direct and help craft the story for Captain America 3 however, and them revealing during the junket that it would shoot in 2015, that changes things.
— Reed Tucker (@reed_tucker) March 12, 2014
Combine that revelation with reports of Marvel having a shortlist of directors for Doctor Strange, and the potential schedule of Phase 3 might be becoming a little clearer:
- May 6 2016 - Captain America 3
- July 8 2016 - Doctor Strange
- May 5 2017 - Thor 3/Guardians of the Galaxy 2
- Late Summer/Fall 2017 - ?
One rumor last month pointed towards a sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy coming in May 2016 but that's currently the least likely option, especially without knowing how the first film will do and the fact that it just might be going up against Warner Bros.' flagship movie.
If Marvel stays put, and they will, don't be surprised to see Warner Bros. take a mid or late-July weekend for Man of Steel 2. There's no point in competing for that all-important opening weekend number and a July date would just give Snyder and co. an extra month of time on it.
[Update: Captain America 3 is officially releasing May 6, 2016 and Warner Bros. in response, isn't planning to change dates "at this time". Read the latest here.]
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, 2014, The 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.
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