The release date rumble is now officially over before any real damage was done, just as we knew it would be. Warner Bros. has moved BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE off of May 6, 2016, where Marvel Studios already has CAPTAIN AMERICA 3, and onto March 25, 2016 (Source: Box Office Mojo). Warner Bros. has also set a number of proposed DC movie release dates that are a safe distance from Marvel’s many upcoming releases.
Why Warner Bros. moved BATMAN V SUPERMAN to May 6, 2016 in the first place is still not known, but perhaps the studio hoped Marvel would back down since, at the time, Marvel had not yet announced which film would fill that date. The latter studio held its ground, however, with President of Production Kevin Feige repeatedly stating over the past few months that Marvel would not deviate from its plan. Marvel reaffirmed its commitment to the first weekend in May by booking untitled releases for 2017 (before the BvS switch), 2018, and 2019.
It is easy to say that Marvel “won” this battle since Warner Bros. ultimately moved its film, but that only matters on message boards and Facebook/Twitter feeds for the next day or so. Long-term, this is the best thing for theater owners, movie fans, and the superhero genre. As you can see in the DC movie release schedule below, there is now a healthy amount of space between DC and Marvel films so that neither studio is stepping on the other’s toes or forcing audiences to choose (less the films slated for November 2017 and 2018). These dates come via Box Office Mojo.
It is very possible and even likely that the “WB Event” films are not DC-related, but there is still a DC film set just two weeks after a Marvel film in November 2017. Since most of the DC and Marvel movies are adequately spaced out, this should not be too much of a problem for anything beyond those two specific releases. With Disney setting its STAR WARS films in December thus far, it’s not as though there is ample room for Warner Bros. to move further back.
The mainstream audience’s annual appetite for superhero films is sure to be stretched and may even find its limit within a few years. Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios will combine for four superhero movies in 2016, five in 2017, and five in 2018. Fox and Sony will add two more movies to 2016’s sum with their respective X-MEN: APOCALYPSE and SINISTER SIX. Sony’s third film from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series would make for six superhero movies in 2018.
As long as the movies are good and the “Big Two” cinematic universes can be distinguished from one another, all will be well, especially since superhero cinema will now regularly span from March through November instead of May through July. Consistently making good movies is no easy task, but Marvel has done so for six years now and Warner Bros. is more than capable. The most difficult challenges beyond quality filmmaking lie with the other (but less) major players, Fox and Sony. The character licenses those studios hold will not support shared universes on a scale anywhere near those that Marvel already offers and Warner Bros. can offer with DC.
If this really is the moment that Warner Bros. enters the cinematic universe game, it would be nice to see it done with a little more oomph. The studio has confirmed the DC lineup to various outlets, but no press release has been sent out, nor is there a massive announcement on any official DC or Warner Bros. website. JUSTICE LEAGUE, a film already announced by Warner Bros. President of Worldwide Production Greg Silverman back in April, was not even listed with any of the nine open release dates.
Comparisons are inevitable, so permit me to point out Marvel’s method of announcing its new release dates on the company’s official website. Doing so shows both confidence and commitment. Hopefully, Warner Bros.’ approach of allowing information to trickle out rather than boldly stating its intentions is not a sign that the studio lacks those qualities with regard to this proposed DC film schedule.
Regardless of how the information arrived, it is great to see a plan for DC on film has finally formed. It is even better to know that while the coming years will be jam-packed with superhero movies (which is fantastic for this website), the studios involved recognize that there is enough room in the calendar for everyone and are acting accordingly. The “Marvel vs. DC” rivalry should play out in friendly social media debates and maybe even a little light-hearted jabbing between the participants, but never on opening weekend.