Disney (DIS) delayed the premiere of Marvel Studio’s Blade from November 2023 to September 2024 after its director, Bassam Tariq, left the movie two months before production was slated to begin. The move triggered a massive push-back of all the Marvel movies planned to follow Blade, including Deadpool 3, Avengers: Secret Wars and Fantastic Four. Each movie will take the premiere date of the movie that was supposed to come after it.
Marvel’s strict release schedule is intended to preserve the tight storylines within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)—a shared reality in which all Marvel characters exist—so it’s not surprising that an unexpected setback in one movie impacted the rest of them. Nor is this the first time the studio, which has been creating films within the MCU since 2008, has delayed releases. Just last year, Disney, which bought Marvel in 2009, pushed back five movies by spans of two to five months.
Postponing six upcoming titles rather than just the first couple has to do with fear of over-saturating the market, said Jonathan Kuntz, a film historian and professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Marvel must abide by Disney’s release schedule, which also includes movies from Disney-owned Lucasfilm, Pixar and 20th Century Fox. It must also consider its corporate and marketing partners, to which Disney makes various guarantees regarding how much promotion each movie will receive. For example, McDonald’s created a commercial promoting Eternals and included action figures in its Happy Meals in 2021. Disney also makes commitments to theaters regarding the windows of time movies are shown, because theaters can only show a certain number of titles at a time. And Disney spends hundreds of millions of dollars to market Marvel movies, so marketing plans are also a factor in the premiere date.
Marvel now has more time to make better movies
The frequent delays do shine a light on greater tensions between fans and creators as the MCU has been criticized recently for losing focus and prioritizing quantity of films over quality. While fans might be displeased about having to wait longer, the extra production time allowed by these delays might be what Marvel needs to make movies that reinvigorate its increasingly disappointed fandom.
Marvel is under pressure to help Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, keep up with the content output from rivals like Netflix, and has produced a slate of television shows including She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and Ms. Marvel. The Star Wars franchise has taken this same course, Kuntz notes. “Marvel wants every project to be important, but they’ve very much lost that sense with the streaming series,” he said.
The aggressive production schedule has also led to criticism about computer-generated imagery errors in titles like Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther and even the critically acclaimed Avengers: Endgame.
“I could be optimistic and say they’re slowing down to do it right and avoid a glut, which it kinds feels like [Marvel] is doing right now,” said Kuntz.