Two years ago Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Fiege hinted that he had planned out the main beats of the Marvel Cinematic Universe all the way up to and including 2028. The specifics may not be known, and as we've seen over the last year, things can change quickly and drastically, but the bigger picture is in place. Mostly.
At the time, Marvel's 2016 movies and beyond hadn't been announced although the Disney-owned studio had set release dates for untitled theatrical releases for a few years ahead of time. That fall, in October 2014, they unveiled their full Phase 3 release slate which has since shifted several times to fit in the addition of Spider-Man to the MCU alongside a sequel to Ant-Man and the Wasp. Skip forward to present, with year one of Phase 3 underway, like clockwork the release dates are set already for the first Phase 4 movies, Marvel already knows what movies may be opening in theaters in 2020-2021 and beyond.
With the end of a trilogy of phases so to are we seeing the conclusion of trilogies of starter Avengers. By next fall, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor will have all had their own trilogies concluded, and after Avengers: Infinity War, those stars have their initial contracts with Marvel conclude as well. Of course, some actors may re-sign (Robert Downey Jr. has optioned into additional films multiple times for instance) while others will be replaced by new actors who are stepping into the spotlight this year and over the next few.
Are we then not too far off before the Avengers roster features none of the "main" or original Earth's Mightiest from writer and director Joss Whedon's first two team-up movies? Feige told CB at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend:
"You always look to the comic books, as we do, and you look at how rosters shift and rosters change and characters go away for a while and characters come back. I would guess that we would get to that soon. Luckily, we're years away from it. Everything that we're doing right now when we're not here getting ready for Comic-Con is focused on the nine movies that will be produced over the next three years and that takes up all of our time and all of our thoughts and all of those include all of those great actors you just mentioned and all of those characters."
As for what unannounced titles finishing 2019 (after Phase 3 concludes) and beyond, Feige knows at least what the next three movies are for 2020:
"We always look at a horizon line that's usually about five years off. Sometimes, even that is sort of a pipe dream, sometimes it even goes beyond that. That's usually what we're looking at. Right now, we know through and have announced through 2019. We have ideas and pretty firm of where we're going in 2020. 2021, which still sounds like the crazy, far fetched future to me, but 2021 is still in flux through 2025."
If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes even close to the success of its predecessor (which it will), then a third movie in that sub-franchise will immediately be discussed openly by Disney and Marvel Studios execs. You can count on it getting a followup in 2020, and with Feige namedropping those specific years it means the unannounced July 2019 film - the beginning of Phase 4 - is already known internally as well. That's four unofficial releases for 2019 already known, and three more for 2021 in "flux."
Could the third 2019 film (the other two being Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2) be another ensemble Captain America movie similar to how Civil War launched Phase 3? The timing works for that. It could even be a Doctor Strange followup should the first one be a success. There also needs to be sequels and spinoffs for Spider-Man: Homecoming but that may not necessarily fall under the Marvel Studios slate in Phase 4 and beyond depending on how the studio's partnership agreement with Sony Pictures is arranged. It's possible Venom and Spidey movies going forward fall under Sony's release schedule while still taking place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Count it as a given that Spider-Man will have a part to play in Avengers: Infinity War though.
As an early guess, we suspect Spider-Man 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Captain America 4 and Black Widow will make up some or all of the 2019-20 movies, and that 2021 may depend on the successes of the Phase 3 installments. The obvious followups include sequels to Strange, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther and some potential new properties (i.e. Inhumans).
Doctor Strange opens in U.S. theaters on November 4, 2016, followed by 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 Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.
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