The term of the day was “forward-looking,” and during the Walt Disney Company’s Thursday afternoon Investor Day 2020 webcast, that look ahead still included plenty of fresh Marvel-centric content. Marvel head Kevin Feige, who concluded the massive four-hour call, used his time to tout the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which still includes a variety of theatrically released films and a slew of upcoming series headed straight to Disney+.
The biggest news: Marvel is working on an long-hyped and brand-new “Fantastic Four” feature film, set to be directed by “Spider-Man” filmmaker Jon Watts. Additionally, while Feige announced that “Black Panther II” is still in the works from filmmaker Ryan Coogler, they will not be recasting the title role played by the late, beloved Chadwick Boseman. The film has moved slightly, from a planned May 6, 2022 release date to July 8, 2022.
While many expected that Feige might announce that one or more MCU films would be heading to Disney+, that was not the case. Instead, the oft-pushed-back “Black Widow” film is still set to open on its latest release date, rolling out only in theaters on May 7, 2021. Other MCU features are also sticking with their last announced theatrical release dates, including “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (July 9, 2021), “Eternals” (November 5, 2021), and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (March 25, 2022).
Feige also confirmed that a trio of other MCU films are moving towards production in the coming months, including Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” (featuring Christian Bale as the villain, the film’s new release date is May 6, 2022), the next “Guardians of the Galaxy” feature, Nia DeCosta’s “Captain Marvel II” (set for theaters on November 11, 2022), and yet another “Ant-Man and the Wasp” feature.
Today’s marathon investor call unfolded against the the final days of a trying year, with entertainment companies like Disney and its subsidiaries feeling the pinch on all sides, as scores of release dates for anticipated projects have been pushed back (and back and back and back), many domestic theaters remain closed, and a number of heavy-hitting would-be blockbusters have made the migration to streaming services in the interim.
But while other competitors, particularly Warner Bros. and its own DCEU franchise, have opted for different release strategies for its biggest offerings — like Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman 1984,” moved around the calendar numerous times before finally settling on a shared theater-and-HBO Max streaming deal that has riled Hollywood — Disney has held firm to its theatrical-only plans for its own superhero series.
While other Disney films, including the much-hyped upcoming Pixar offering “Soul” and the upcoming “Pinocchio” and “Peter Pan and Wendy,” have opted for Disney+ releases (the latter two were just announced during today’s call), the Marvel properties have held out from streaming premieres of any stripe.
That’s not to say that the golden goose Marvel franchise has been immune to any of those impacts in recent months. Given how neatly Marvel stacks up its ever-expanding cinematic universe, one move — an early March push for Cate Shortland’s “Black Widow,” one of the first major movies to vacate its original release date due to the pandemic — inevitably meant more dominoes had to fall. While Marvel and Disney brass were likely looking forward to another bonanza year at the box office, continued release date pushes have placed the burden on 2021 and beyond to deliver the goods.
In September, Disney and Marvel finally set a new date for “Black Widow,” effectively pushing back the start of the MCU’s Phase Four by a full year. Others followed, including “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals,” which were shoved out of their planned release dates to fresh homes far away from Marvel’s original plans.
Amid the backdrop of the pandemic, Marvel has soldiered on, with “Eternals” completing planned reshoots in recent weeks, as television series like “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Solider” have continued shooting in order to meet their own planned Disney+ release dates. Those series will roll out on the streamer in 2021, with “WandaVision” hitting Disney+ on January 15 and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” following on March 19. Today’s announcement also included fresh news about series like “Loki,” “Hawkeye,” “She-Hulk,” “Moon Knight,” and “Ms. Marvel,” which you read all about right here.