Disney bought Marvel last year, but the comic book movie studio was already in the midst of a five-year distribution deal with Paramount - which meant that the latter still owned the distribution and marketing rights to Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, The Avengers, and Iron Man 3.
Paramount will receive $115 million from Disney for the rights to both The Avengers and the third Iron Man pic, which has now officially been scheduled for release on May 3, 2013. Disney will both cover the costs of each film's theatrical release and pay Paramount a distribution fee that will in part depend on the financial success of these heavily-anticipated Marvel titles.
Marvel announced earlier this month that it has plans through to 2017 and that The Avengers in particular would set the foundation for an epic movie event that will take place that year (so, something MORE epic than an Avengers movie?). The superhero ensemble piece should prove to be an extremely lucrative product so it makes sense, financially speaking, that Disney would want to get in on the action sooner rather than later.
Could sequels to Thor and Captain America be released in 2013 alongside Iron Man 3? It isn't entirely out of the question for the time being. Characters like Ant-Man or Iron Fist could make the leap to the big screen by 2013 as well, while a followup to The Avengers would likely not be released until 2014, at the earliest.
It looks to be an extremely busy couple of years for Marvel Universe comic book movies and Disney will get to reap all the profits that come with them - their $115 million payout to Paramount will probably seem like chump change by the time 2013 actually rolls around.
Thor will hit 2D and 3D screens in the U.S. on May 20th, 2011
The First Avenger: Captain America arrives in 2D and 3D theaters in the U.S. on July 22nd, 2011.
The Avengers will arrive in theaters on May 4th, 2012.
Iron Man 3 hits theaters on May 3rd, 2013.