Sony announced, yesterday morning and with much fanfare, that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man would be returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We are getting a straight up threequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home which will be set in the MCU and be produced by both Amy Pascal (from Sony) and Kevin Feige (from Marvel and Disney). And, yes, Spidey would appear in at least one more MCU movie in the future, which I presume means the next super-duper event team-up movie (Young Avengers vs the PhD Candidate of Doom?).
The cost for the brokered peace was 25 %, with Disney putting up around 25% of the production budget for the third Spidey flick and thus getting 25% of the profits. But the big news isn’t just that Holland’s specific interpretation of Peter Parker will remain technically encased within the MCU. Nor is it necessarily the news that Disney will now essentially own 25% of another studio’s crown jewel IP, although that part of the deal should give us all pause. What stood out is that this third Spider-Man movie will open on July 16, 2021.
Sony now has a big summer tentpole, an already crowded summer is now at near-capacity and Marvel Studios would have, for the first time, four movies in a single year. Presuming none of the MCU movies shift release dates, and I don’t think they will, 2021 will see the releases of Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on February 12, Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, the untitled Spider-Man movie on July 16 and Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021.
Taika Waititi’s Natalie Portman/Tessa Thompson/Chris Hemsworth action fantasy could move to President’s Day weekend in 2022. However, presuming Marvel can successfully produce these four movies in the time given, I’d keep Thor 4 right where it is just in case James Cameron’s Avatar 2 pulls an Alice Through the Looking Glass (although 29% of Avatar’s $2.789 billion gross is still $813 million). If Disney cares about market share, four MCU movies, albeit one with 25% of the gross plus Avatar 2 is the only chance they’ve got against Universal’s stacked line-up of potential mega-movies (Halloween Ends, Wicked, Jurassic World III, Fast & Furious 10, etc.).
Spider-Man 3 (version 2.0) will open on the same day as Space Jam 2 and right between Indiana Jones 5 on July 9 and Mission: Impossible 7 on July 23. I’m guessing the LeBron James sci-fi sequel will find safer waters. I’m curious as to whether A) Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones sequel gets made and B) whether Disney wants a Disney flick and a Sony/Disney flick opening within a week of each other. The Ethan Hunt sequel is now stuck either opening one week after Spider-Man 3 or moving to July 30 but opening one week before James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad.
The appearance of another big MCU comic book superhero movie between Matt Reeves’ The Batman (June 25) and The Suicide Squad on August 6 is problematic but not remotely fatal to either DC Films flick. If anything, it’ll be a slight test as to whether China just loves superhero movies in general or whether they just love Marvel (MCU or otherwise) flicks give-or-take fantasy spectaculars like Aquaman. And while it’s tempting to look at the four MCU movies spaced out over a single year and presume that they will suck up all the “big-budget action fantasy tentpole” dollars, it’s not quite that simple.
Part of the reason Disney (and Sony’s MCU movie) were so dominant thus far is because the rest of the industry saw Disney unloading their biggest and most promising movies (the last Avengers, the last Star Wars, The Lion King, Frozen II, etc.) and kept their own best and brightest in reserve. If anything, Universal’s slate of series finales and potentially anticipated animated sequels (Sing 2, Boss Baby 2) puts its 2021 slate in a prime position. Point being, if we had new Jurassic World movies and a new Batman flick against Disney’s 2019 slate, then the results wouldn’t have been so lopsided.
Even presuming Cruella breaks out over Memorial Day and Lucafilm’s Indiana Jones 5 makes it to the finish line, Disney’s 2021 slate (which, to be fair, includes various “untitled” releases) is almost entirely dependent on Marvel and Avatar 2. That may have been part of what brought Sony and Disney back to the table. Both Marvel and Sony’s Spider-Verse would have been fine without each other, but they probably were stronger together. Spider-Man gave Marvel’s Phase Three an emotional jolt (especially for Avengers: Infinity War) while Marvel gave Sony’s second Spider-Man reboot a treasure trove of added value elements (including Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man).
I wouldn’t be surprised if Space Jam 2 moves, perhaps to early May and (depending on what it cost) hoping to replicate the comparative mid-May success of Detective Pikachu. Paramount is in a trickier spot, since the Tom Cruise action franchise is really the only A-level IP they have. May is mostly about Doctor Strange 2, John Wick 4 and Cruella and August is barren save for the DC Films sequel, but June (Micronauts, Sesame Street, Jurassic World 3, a mid-June Pixar and The Batman) and July (Sing 2, Indiana Jones 5, Spider-Man 3, Space Jam 2 and Mission: Impossible 7) are quite crowded.
Spider-Man is back with the MCU, Disney now has 25% of Sony’s biggest franchise and Marvel Studios will get their dream scenario of having one movie each quarter. If Marvel can pull this off without compromising quality or cannibalizing itself, then I absolutely expect this to become a normal scenario going forward. What this means, especially after Universal wraps up its big live-action IPs (Fast & Furious and Jurassic World) and Paramount ends the Mission: Impossible franchise in 2022, that Marvel could absolutely become a kind of one-stop-shop for action-fantasy tentpole thrills among moviegoers who only go to the movies several times a year.