The next nine Marvel Studios movies are all in various stages of development, all have their leads cast, and all have release dates and titles. After this set of films conclude Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Disney-owned production house will continue releasing three movies per year, with dates already set for four unannounced titles.

It’s easy to predict what some of those titles will be – and Marvel already knows what they are and is already planning many years beyond that. However, the single most obvious movie coming during that time frame is Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

The Guardians of the Galaxy cast returns next year with a few new roster members for Vol. 2 and all of the leads are signed for additional movies for appearances in Avengers 3-4 and a third Guardians. That much is known and obvious, and has been stated on multiple occasions by writer and director James Gunn. However, Gunn has yet to confirm if he too will return for a third Guardians film (see below).

If James Gunn isn’t officially announced to be writing and directing a third Guardians of the Galaxy installment before Vol. 2 opens in theaters in May, he won’t be back. Recall: Gunn and star Chris Pratt announced Guardians of the Galaxy 2 a month before the original came out during a video presentation at San Diego Comic-Con 2014. Similarly, brothers and co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo were locked in for Captain America 3 (Civil War) before The Winter Soldier debuted, and not long after they were already signed for Avengers 3-4.

Of course, by then Gunn will have already made it clear whether he’s moving onto other things (he admitted to being approached not long ago about his personal favorite character, ROM: Spaceknight, and now that property is becoming a reality in the shared Hasbro movie universe at Paramount Pictures) or sticking around for another Marvel Studios project. And if he does stick around, it doesn’t necessarily have to be for GOTG 3. He’ll only do cosmic movies and has expressed interest more than once in the idea of Guardians of the Galaxy spinoffs rather than a direct sequel so that’s always a possibility too. That is, if he can let go of the team and live-action property he helped create.

Marvel Studios operates differently now than they did a few years ago. President of Production and producer on all their movies, Kevin Feige, is now the singular mind in charge and only reports to Disney’s highest level executives. And with two phases of experience and learnings on his resume, Phase 3 was entirely planned out from the beginning – with room for flexibility of course (see: Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp added to slate).

Marvel Studios New Logo Phase 4 No Plans For Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Yet But Itll Happen

Phase 4 will be the same. In fact, there are already multiple release dates set for unannounced films in 2019-21 and Feige says he has a “firm” idea of what they are, along with a good idea of what’s in early planning all the way up until 2025. They’re not being announce anytime soon as to not lock themselves in so early unnecessarily since anything can change. Certain new properties could see unexpected results critically or financially that could change thing, or something drastic could happen (i.e. acquisition of another property or partnership for Fantastic Four). That could alter plans too. Some announcements could even be spoiler-y, given that Avengers 4 is touted to change the entire MCU and launch a “new saga.”

That being said, with the trend of production timelines and release schedules so far, obvious choices for 2020 include Guardians of the Galaxy 3 which Disney and Marvel placed in the coveted opening May weekend next summer. It could easily hit the billion dollar mark, and like Captain America and Iron Man, become another mega sub-franchise for the studio. Similarly, look for another Captain America movie and a new property in 2019-20 as well.

More: Stan Lee’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Cameo Confirmed

Starring Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Chris Sullivan, Dave Bautista, Elizabeth Debicki, Glenn Close, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Tommy Flanagan, Vin Diesel, and Zoe Saldana.

Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming– July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019Avengers 4 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.

Source: James Gunn

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