Following a record-breaking April box office opening for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers is officially a hot solo-movie commodity. While Captain America: The First Avenger was a solid box office success (bringing in $370 million globally), Rogers' WWII origin story was the runner-up for least viewed Marvel Phase 1 movie (performing slightly better than The Incredible Hulk) - despite a positive endorsement from critics and fans, alike.
As a result, it was unclear whether The Avengers team-up, and on-going shared universe storyline, would result in an improved showing for the Captain America sequel. Early buzz for The Winter Soldier suggested that it might be the best Marvel movie to date (a sentiment echoed in our Captain America 2 review) but a quality film, didn't necessarily mean that audiences would turn out in big numbers. However, with a $96 million opening in the states (taking the movie's 2 week international total to $303 million), it's no surprise that Marvel has now confirmed Captain America 3 is officially coming to theaters on May 6, 2016 - the same day as Batman vs. Superman.
The announcement comes after prior reports suggested that Marvel's May 6th movie would be Captain America 3 - but the studio had, previously, remained coy on the validity of those rumors. Competing reports and speculation had suggested that the long-expected, but unannounced, Doctor Strange movie would be taking the spot (especially after the fan-favorite character that was recently name-dropped as hint of things to come). Yet, with word that Steve Rogers will stare down Batman and Superman in a game of superhero movie release date chicken, it looks as though Doctor Strange, who Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige had previously indicated would be a Phase 3 film, will launch in one of Marvel's other announced release dates: July 8, 2016 or May 5, 2017.
No doubt, the confirmation will add further fuel to the ongoing "who will change their release date" battle between Marvel and DC - an Internet smack down fueled by impassioned fan boys and girls as well as online journos and publicists. Solid box office numbers, not to mention word of mouth, help cement Marvel's claim on the release date - which is the reason the studio waited until first weekend numbers were in to announce the sequel. However, even if moviegoers loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier and can't wait for a post-Avengers: Age of Ultron follow-up, there's still an "event" quality to Batman vs. Superman that will make it a power-house project - especially after trailers and marketing materials begin surfacing.
Yet, with over two full years before Captain America 3 and Batman vs. Superman are scheduled for release, anything can happen (script rewrites, casting change-ups, on-set problems, etc.) - meaning that either studio could be forced to delay their respective project out of the head-to-head match-up in order to make a better film for fans.
Marvel is a well-oiled machine (with a production schedule plotted out through 2028), and as the editors discussed on a recent Screen Rant Underground podcast, it's unlikely that they're going to move away from May 6, 2016 - especially since there's a strong incentive for DC to put Batman vs. Superman into a mid-summer release date (where both Man of Steel and the Dark Knight series performed well). We all like to view competing match ups as dramatic affairs but, as moviegoers debate who will be the "loser" to back away from May 6th the real winner is both DC and Marvel, who are enjoying loads of hype for their respective films without releasing a single image, plot detail, or trailer - two full years before release.
The takeaway: it's incredibly unlikely that the two films will actually open the same weekend - since they'd be competing for 3D screens and limited space in theaters. While die-hard fans would rush-out to see both films, casual moviegoers (the ones that help push a blockbuster film into record-breaking numbers) would be forced to choose - negatively impacting the overall profit for both films. Fans might think that DC or Marvel would happily take a hit in order to hurt the success of their competitor, but that's not how studios (thinking long term) approach these situations. With Captain America on the rise, why would Marvel want to bring-in less money, and make Rogers look less viable as a solo brand, just to take a chunk out of Batman vs. Superman?
As for what we'll see in Captain America 3, Collider interviewed returning Winter Soldier writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who claim they've been working on the sequel story since last year (2013) but are still in the process of mapping out the broad strokes. In the interview the pair also suggest they've read the Avengers 2 script - which provides a solid jumping off point for Captain America's next solo adventure. Fans who have seen The Winter Soldier might also have an idea of other characters that could play into future Captain America movies but, at this point, Markus and McFeely don't know how or where supporting heroes fit in - especially since they do not want Steve Rogers to be overshadowed by other members of the cast.
Previously, the writers had teased "psychotic 1950s Cap" - a nod to William Burnside, the fourth Captain America, who took over the mantle while Rogers was frozen in ice, only to later go insane. Though, at this point, it's unclear whether the character is simply a favorite of the scriptwriters - or a legitimate movie villain possibility.
We'll keep you up to date as we hear further official information on Captain America 3 - and the ongoing Batman vs. Superman release date debate. In the meantime, make sure to check out the 8 villains we want to see in Captain America 3!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is out now, Guardians of the Galaxy hits theaters on August 1, 2014, with The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6, 2016, as well as unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5, 2017.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Captain America 3 as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.