WOW! Disney is king of the box office, with numerous Billion-Dollar-Blockbusters in their library! Avengers: Endgame is closing on $800 Million domestically, passing Black Panther and Avatar to claim the #2 all-time spot! (Yes, BP made more money last year than Avengers: Infinity War!)
Fans and reporters have been wondering what comes next in what is unofficially “Phase Four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the recent acquisition of Fox ($71 Billion), fans are especially interested in the Marvel properties that Fox licensed way back in 1994…will we see the X-Men or Fantastic Four in the MCU?
Disney and Marvel have been very secretive about what’s coming up, but they recently announced their release schedule all the way through to 2027! But… (or is that “Meanwhile…”?), they left many of the dates blank, using generic titles to stake a claim. If you’re a Disney fan, there aren’t many surprises… you know there’s an MCU movie near FCBD, Star Wars opens right before Christmas, an animated feature gives you an excuse to escape from family during Thanksgiving… If you need a template, just look at 2022:
2/18/22 UNTITLED MARVEL
3/18/22 UNTITLED PIXAR
5/6/22 UNTITLED MARVEL
5/27/22 UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION
6/17/22 UNTITLED PIXAR
7/8/22 UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION
7/29/22 UNTITLED MARVEL
10/7/22 UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION
11/4/22 UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION
Wed 11/23/22 UNTITLED DISNEY ANIMATION
12/16/22 UNTITLED STAR WARS
Early November can also be reserved for a Marvel movie (they do three a year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they upped it to four), and the mid-December slot will alternate between Star Wars and Avatar. (I hereby name that Wednesday “Fox-buster Wednesday“, as both franchises were originally distributed by Fox.)
The March date is either a second Pixar movie (June is the anchor), or a live-action adaptation. Zootopia opened on that date in 2016, but it can’t support a new film…there have been some clunkers in the past decade! (A Wrinkle in Time, Need for Speed, Muppets Most Wanted, John Carter…)
Here’s the upcoming release schedule for Disney, Fox, Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and related studios, color-coded, followed by my analysis:
|6/21/19||TOY STORY 4||Pixar|
|8/9/19||THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN||Fox|
|8/23/19||READY OR NOT||Fox Searchlight|
|10/4/19||THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW||Fox|
|10/18/19||MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL||Disney|
|11/15/19||FORD v. FERRARI||Fox|
|12/20/19||STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER||Lucasfilm|
|12/25/19||SPIES IN DISGUISE||Fox/Blue Sky|
|2/14/20||UNTITLED KINGSMAN MOVIE||Fox|
|2/21/20||CALL OF THE WILD||Fox/3 Arts Entertainment|
|4/3/20||THE NEW MUTANTS||Fox|
|6/19/20||UNTITLED PIXAR ANIMATION||Pixar|
|8/14/20||THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN||Disney|
|10/9/20||DEATH ON THE NILE||Fox|
|11/6/20||RON’S GONE WRONG||Fox/Locksmith|
|11/25/20||UNTITLED DISNEY ANIMATION||Disney|
|12/18/20||WEST SIDE STORY||Fox|
|3/12/21||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|5/28/21||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|6/18/21||UNTITLED PIXAR ANIMATION||Pixar|
|7/9/21||UNTITLED INDIANA JONES||Lucasfilm|
|7/30/21||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|10/8/21||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|11/24/21||UNTITLED DISNEY ANIMATION||Disney|
|5/27/22||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|7/8/22||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|10/7/22||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|11/4/22||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|11/23/22||UNTITLED DISNEY ANIMATION||Disney|
|12/16/22||UNTITLED STAR WARS||Lucasfilm|
|2/17/23||UNTITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION||Disney|
|12/20/24||UNTITLED STAR WARS||Lucasfilm|
|12/18/26||UNTITLED STAR WARS||Lucasfilm|
- Note that August is a desert for movies. Why? Two reasons:
- Many families plan their summer vacations in August. When on vacation, people are less likely to spend time in a movie theater. (Unless it’s a theme park attraction, like Soarin’ Around the World.)
- Many school districts now start the school year in the middle of August, so that the year ends before Memorial Day (and to bank against any weather closings).
- There is only one Fox Searchlight feature on the schedule: Ready or Not. Jojo Rabbit is scheduled for October 18th, but is not on this schedule, nor on Box Office Mojo’s, and that date is taken by the Maleficent sequel. Sure, Disney could release a major movie, and a more arthouse film on the same week, or Disney might be rethinking the date, hoping for some Oscar buzz. The movie is by Taika Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnarok, and stars Scarlett Johansson. Or maybe, given the plot, Disney is rethinking it altogether.
This raises a bigger question: What will Fox produce in the years to come? Will the studio become another Touchstone Pictures, or another Miramax? Disney doesn’t do much adult fare now, betting on sure things like tentpole movies and franchises. Disneynature has its niche, producing films with budgets of $5-$10 Million, and that model, along with the new Disney streaming services, could produce cheap films with large returns. Pixar already is producing animated shorts not for feature films, but for YouTube and streaming, and there’s lots of fan-favorite series already announced.
- Note, in 2020, Marvel Comics will have two consecutive weeks of movies, with The New Mutants on “Avengers Day”, and an untitled MCU movie the weekend of Free Comic Book Day.
Of course, Marvel has not yet announced any of their “Phase Four” or “Post-Endgame” movies. Keep an eye peeled…they’ll probably stage a fan fest/press conference like they did back in October 2014. NO, I will not speculate on which movies might screen when. Lots of websites did this with the DCEU films back in 2015, and most of those dates vanished into the æthernet, dragging along those sites’ credibility. Only when Disney announces set dates and names will these “untitled” movies be replaced.
- Blue Sky Studios, best known for the Ice Age franchise, is part of Fox. They have two movies scheduled: Spies in Disguise (based on an animated short film), and Nimona (based on the award-winning graphic novel).
For 2019, that means that Disney could have: Toy Story 4, Spies in Disguise, and Frozen 2 up for Best Animated Feature. (Four movies, if you count the CGI’d The Lion King.) This isn’t unusual; 2016 had Zootopia, Finding Dory, and Moana released by Disney. Zootopia won the Oscar, and Moana was nominated.
- West Side Story?!? Directed by Steven Spielberg?! Yeah, Broadway has numerous revivals, even giving out Tonys for Best Revival, but in cinema? Remaking a film that won ten Academy Awards?! I’ll wait and see… The charm of the original movie was that it was shot ON LOCATION, in Lincoln Square. It’s a period piece, starting with that marvelous aerial tour of New York City.
- The February/March Marvel movies are a new ripple in the calendar. Previous movies in this slot have been Winter Soldier (2014), Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. Marvel didn’t have a tentpole in May 2014 (that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2). With Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Disney has realized that the early MCU movies create buzz for the Avengers movies opening in late April, AND that those movies get an added box office boost the first week of the Avengers release. My prognostication? February/March and July/August will be used to feature new characters or teams. April/May will be the big event movie, and early November will feature a sequel. The July slot can also be used for a supplemental movie, like Spider-Man: Far From Home, which adds to the previous event movie. (Captain Marvel did the same, ten months after Infinity War.)
- The Untitled Marvel movie on May 7, 2021, means it opens the weekend after Free Comic Book Day, which is on May 1st that year. I wonder if that will affect Marvel’s publication plans? Maybe they’ll offer a 25¢ tie-in, similar to DC’s Year of the Villain comic from this year. Marvel can have it ship strict-on-sale (instead of weeks in advance with the other FCBD issues) to contain spoilers, still publish two regular FCBD giveaways, AND offer multiple retailer incentive variants to rake in the moolah. (DC offered 1:100, 1:250, 1:500 variants this year.) That will also be the TWENTIETH Free Comic Book Day. Hmmm…are FCBD publishers limited to the number of pages in the free issues? Could Marvel or DC publish an 80-page giant issue? Even if there is a size limit on FCBD, Marvel could still offer a Giant-Size Marvel Must-Have issue for $1 on the side. Or call it a Marvel Comics Super Special and offer a treasury edition as a variant, kinda like what they did with Battlestar Galactica!
- Untitled Disney Live Action… there are NINE such movies on this schedule. Since these are based on Disney animated features, there are 57 possible movies they can adapt (so far). and about forty that would be worthy. (I doubt we’ll ever see a “live-action” version of Chicken Little.) The big problem with these adaptations: anthropomorphic characters like Robin Hood or Thomas O’Malley (not to mention Shun Gon!) might be too close to the Uncanny Valley to work, or be worth the time and money.
Also, if the original live-action adaptation is successful, Disney can greenlight sequels, especially if the original movie does not have music, such as Alice in Wonderland or Malificent. I would not be surprised if Disney actually does create more villain pictures. Those roles are usually the most fun for actors, and it allows Disney to fill in the backstory to a well-known movie.
- What will Fox produce to fill in the blanks around the Disney dates? Wikipedia has a list of possible movies. Lots of graphic novels and strips “in development”! I suspect Disney is reviewing all of those contracts, not to mention the personnel working on those features.
- Another “development”: Fox (and now Disney) owns a “substantial” stake in Boom! Studios since 2017, in return for a first-look production deal. According to IMDB, there are fifteen movies which have been announced, but nothing has been released since Two Guns in 2013, and only Empty Man completed but without a firm release date. (Completed, it seems, in 2017, but not released, which is usually a sign of a troubled film.)
Boom recently acquired the Whedonverse properties, formerly at Dark Horse, but it’s uncertain if Disney will pull the Fox licenses to Marvel, like they did with Star Wars.
Boom’s business model is that they co-own the original graphic novels along with the creators. Could Disney acquire Boom! to gain (co)ownership of those titles? Some of you may recall that Disney bought CrossGen’s assets at bankruptcy to get their hands on Abazad. (Disney published three chapter books, and then let the other assets hibernate, including patents for viewing comics electronically.) The best strategy would be to produce and distribute the movies under development, at a cost much less than a superhero movie, then use the box office profits to acquire Boom completely once the model is proven.
OR: Disney has Boom edit and publish their kids comics. IDW currently manages the Marvel and Star Wars titles for kids. Boom once published comics featuring Disney, Pixar, and Muppets characters.
Boom, like Fox, could become a “low risk” division of Disney, developing properties at low cost with the possibility of high return. Archaia is an “art house” publisher of comics. Boom might need to alter their business model, since most creators would be hesitant to partner with Disney via co-ownership. (Do Boom’s legacy creators now regret their contracts with Boom? Will Hollywood Accounting keep creators from just compensation?)
As I showed above, Disney Studios has a schedule and a formula that works; last year, they had five movies which made $200 Million or more at the domestic box office, and three of those made more than $1 Billion worldwide. (Avengers: Infinity War broke $2 Billion worldwide, with only a third of that revenue from the US and Canada.) Last year, Disney made $$3.0924 Billion on ten movies (plus three movies from 2017). Second-place Warners was just short of $2 Billion, with 38/11. Fox? Fifth, with $1.082.3B, 12, 5.
While Disney does have a few faltering divisions (ESPN and cable is withering as viewers cut the chord and move to streaming services), Disney is aggressively competing on multiple battlefronts.
In streaming, they own a majority stake in Hulu (with full ownership in 2024), launched ESPN+ in 2018 (with 2 million subscribers paying $5 a month), run Hotstar in India (300 million monthly subscribers), and will launch Disney+ in November for a monthly fee of $7 or $70 for a year.
At their theme parks (which generates twice the revenue of the studios), Disney is actively competing with Universal Studios, both in southern California and Orlando. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens this summer in both locations, and provides an immersive experience to compete with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. Disney has already upgraded their Animal Kingdom at Disney World with an attraction based on Avatar, and Marvel fans on both coasts are expectant on future attractions based on the MCU.
Disney paid $71.3 Billion for Fox. While it may take a while for Disney to recoup that investment, they will. (They’ve already made $10.6 Billion selling off Fox Regional Sports to Sinclair Media.) How they do it remains to be seen, but Bob Iger has an excellent track record of acquisitions for Disney. He retires in 2021, and it will be interesting to see if any of the major shareholders influence the hiring of his replacement. (James Murdoch is a possibility, but probably not immediately, due to the merger of Fox and the steep learning curve of Disney synergy.) Interesting times, as the British say.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!
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