Disney and Warner Bros. have both released long lists of "untitled" comic book properties. Add Fox and Sony into the mix and we're looking at over 20 superhero pics going into 2020. In a recent article, Pamela McClintock of The Hollywood Reporter explores the reasons behind the trend.
"It's a pissing contest," says box-office analyst Phil Contrino. "I don't think it's great for the industry as a whole. You want to see diversity in the release calendar instead of everything being scooped up for tentpoles."
As of now, a record 17 untitled superhero movies have been scheduled between 2016 and 2020. Back in March, Fox scheduled an untitled superhero film for July 13, 2018. Four months later Disney claimed July 6, just one week earlier, for an untitled Marvel film.
Experts predict one of the films will have to move. Not unlike Warner Bros. moving Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice from May 6, 2016, when it was set to face off with Captain America 3, up a month to March 25. "There will be far less competition," predicts Contrino, who commends Warner for its willingness to release BvS during Easter weekend. It'll actually be a first for a film of that size.
The article explains revenue from Time Warner's film division fell 2 percent over the last year. So on August 6, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes promised to "mine DC Entertainment's catalog" to properly leverage its franchises. BvS' move to March 2016 was the first step.
Warner then began reserving dates for a staggering nine untitled DC pics. They also specified dates for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter spinoffs beginning with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2016. "It's the new way of doing business," explains Warners distribution chief Dan Fellman.
The article states Disney has a hefty seven untitled Marvel projects lined up in addition to seven animation titles. Then there's Star Wars with Episode VII scheduled for December 18 of next year and three more entries in the works. "It's one thing for Disney to do it because it is batting a thousand. For the rest, I don't know," says one rival.
With so many comic book movies on deck, are we in danger of superhero overload? There are three superhero movies set for 2015 - Fox's reboot for The Fantastic Four, Marvel's Ant-Man and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. After 2015? Six superhero movies in 2016. Seven in 2017. Six in 2018.
Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis says, "Making really good movies will allow you to think less about what is around you competitively." Hollis successfully opened Guardians of the Galaxy (August) and Captain America: Winter Soldier (April) outside the usual summer window. He adds, "It also guarantees that people will show up for the brand."
Still, claiming a date so far out can become problematic [oy].
The article points out before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit theaters in May, Sony claimed audiences could expect the next two films in 2016 and 2018. But when TASM2 fell short of the TASM1's $757M global haul (part 2 grossed $708M) Sony had to abandon those dates. Instead, they scheduled The Sinister Six for November 2016 and a Spidey-universe female led film for 2017. McClintock calls it "a cautionary tale and a signal that a release date does not equal a movie."
"Planting flags is nice and all, but what really matters is big box office," says Rich Greenfield, an analyst for BTIG, a provider of global equity trading. "To me, dating is secondary to quality."