According to X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner, future movies are effectively on pause until after the Disney acquisition. Disney now expects to complete their purchase of Fox by June, after which point they'll take ownership of most of Fox's film and TV empire. The X-Men and Fantastic Four will be handed over to Marvel Studios, with Kevin Feige set to decide how exactly to integrate them into the MCU.
This leaves the future of the X-Men film franchise in considerable doubt. For months it's been business as usual for both Disney and Fox, who've been wary of upsetting regulators by presuming approval. As a result, Fox has continued working on projects like X-Men: Dark Phoenix and New Mutants, and they have a whole swathe of other films in pre-production. These include the much-delayed Gambit, the X-Force movie set up by Deadpool 2, and surprising spinoffs like Multiple Man and Kitty Pryde.
But reality simply had to catch up with the X-Men franchise sooner or later. Speaking at a TCA panel for Legion, veteran X-Men producer Donner confirmed (via IGN) that only Dark Phoenix and New Mutants are now in development; the others are effectively on hold. "This is all now in Disney’s playground and they get to decide," she observed. "At least we know it’s in good hands, everybody’s worked really hard up til now on our Fox side, but now it’s gonna be Disney’s call."
Asked about Gambit in particular, Donner noted that Feige will face difficult decisions. "The problem is," she explained, "you cannot have too many Marvel X-Men superhero movies out there, otherwise we will cancel each other out. Each one has to be distinctive and yet you've got the Avengers to follow through, you've got so many distinctive story canons to follow through and yet you want new ones." In Donner's view, there's a danger that Marvel could become too big, attempting to release too many films a year. "I don't think you can have more than four," she added. "Four is a lot, 'cause people are gonna get sick of them, so we have to be careful. He has to be careful, Kevin."
Certainly Feige seems aware of the risks; he's already reassured fans that Marvel will only do four films a year for very good reasons. In fact, over the next few years the Marvel slate is actually shrinking down to two a year. That's probably in part because Marvel Studios has been tasked with developing big-budget TV shows for the Disney Plus streaming service, which will naturally take up a lot of time and effort. The truth is that Marvel probably doesn't have the bandwidth to do four movies a year going forward.
In narrative terms, of course, any post-acquisition X-Men films will be very different; they'll be designed to fit into the overarching story of the MCU, which means any plans will doubtlessly need to be reworked and any scripts will require a substantial rewrite. Given that's the case, it's interesting to note that Brian Bendis has confirmed he's still working on the Kitty Pryde script, perhaps suggesting the continuity here is loose enough that the film could work in either the Fox-era X-Men universe or the MCU. It'll be fascinating to see what approach Marvel Studios takes, and whether or not any of these Fox-era X-Men projects make their way into the MCU.