Well, that was slightly unexpected.
Warner Bros. rose a ton of eyebrows across Hollywood on Wednesday when it flooded the theatrical release schedule with not three, not four, but 10 "Untitled" DC Comics universe movies. This comes less than two weeks after the studio surprised many by making no announcements at Comic-Con regarding a rumored slate of new films. The bigger news, of course, was the studio moving "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" to an earlier opening release date of March 25, 2016.
To be fair there was always a 50/50 chance that "Batman V Superman" would move from its original May 6, 2016 release date. Once Marvel decided to slot "Captain America 3" on the same day it was obvious one of the two expected blockbusters would have to move. It simply would have been box office suicide for both of them to open against each other. The fact the film that's already in production blinked first is something of a surprise, but Warner Bros. can smartly frame it as part of their plan to open more tentpole movies in March and April moving forward. Moreover, at worst, Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" follow up is going to be finished by next summer. That means WB could have the film on the shelf for a minimum of eight months just waiting for the proper release date. Six weeks isn't really much of an improvement, but it gives "BVS" some breathing room before "Captain America 3" and avoids the competitive hit of "Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass" and "X-Men: Apocalypse" later that May. Marvel and Walt Disney Studios distribution execs can high five themselves over the fact they "won" the opening day battle, but Warner Bros. made their competitors lives much more interesting with the 10 new releases now on the board.
Speculating on each "Untitled" project is sort of silly at this point and can be incredibly off base. Nikki Finke made a splash last month when she released a list of new DC Comics films that were supposed to be revealed at Comic-Con. That announcement never came and while a few of those dates line up with the films she mentioned, most do not. Needless to say, it appears plans at WB have been in flux and the studio has a very long roadmap in the works. So, if you thought WB and DC Entertainment have been resting on their laurels you've made a grave mistake. The studio has a plan. Will it end up as good a plan as Marvel's phase 1 and phase 2 endeavors have turned out to be? 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures have both shown it isn't as easy as it looks.
Here's a quick rundown on each of the 11 new dates, what rumored project has been associated with it and what announced or "untitled" films Marvel, Fox and Sony Pictures flicks are in close proximity on the release date calendar.
Rumored to be: "Shazam"
Superhero competition: "Marvel Untitled" assumed to be "Thor 3" or "Doctor Strange" on July 8.
Rumored to be: "Justice League"
Superhero competition: None within four weeks before or after opening.
Rumored to be: Possibly "Flash and Green Lantern" team-up
Superhero competition: "Marvel Untitled" on Nov. 3.
Rumored to be: Unknown
Superhero competition: None
Rumored to be: "Man of Steel 2 or 3" (depending how you're counting "BVS")
Superhero competition: "Marvel Untitled" on July 6. "Fox Untitled" on July 13 (Could be "Fantastic Four 2").
The remaining five:
A lot can happen in six years. The bottom could fall out on the superhero movie genre (unlikely), some potential franchises may fail eliminating future sequel opportunities and some projects could be delayed for numerous creative reasons (paging Guillermo Del Toro, paging Guillermo Del Toro). That being said, putting a ton stakes in the stand up to six years out is not typical studio policy let alone WB's usual strategy. Frankly, it's just evident of how competitive and lucrative all these superhero movies have become.
Now, if you want to have some fun playing a musical open release dates game rumored films besides the expected "Justice League" and "Sandman" include "Shazam," "Wonder Woman," "Metal Men," "Justice League Dark" and "Flash and Green Lantern." If you account for some sequels to those properties you might just reach 10 films. Or, WB and DC Entertainment are really out to surprise us.
Do you think Warner Bros. blinked? Or was it a smart strategy to move "Batman V Superman" out of an "Avenger's" way? Share your thoughts below.