Production on – which began a few months ago. With Guardians 3 now out of this production schedule, it means Marvel needs to find something else to fill this spot.
If Gunn hadn’t been fired from Guardians 3, the movie would currently (roughly five months out from the start of production) have a finished script, a director in place, and most of its cast set. Guardians 3 would’ve added new cast members near the end of 2018, but most major roles in front of and behind the camera were locked in. Whatever project takes its place needs to have some of (if not all of) these significant pieces in place at this stage. This does ultimately limit the known options at Marvel’s disposal, but there’s still a few likely contenders to take this now vacant spot.
Page 2: What Will Marvel Do Now?
Which Movie Could Take The May 2020?
There are currently three known options for Marvel. The one that appears to be most ready for a bump up in the production schedule (or just a quicker turnaround) is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. After years of talking about the film, Marvel Studios is finally giving Natasha Romanoff the solo treatment. They hired Jac Schaeffer to write the script at the beginning of the year, and then recently named Cate Shortland as the film’s director. A general story idea appears to be in place and crew members have already started to join. It would be a huge vote of confidence by Marvel Studios to put this solo movie in their most prime release slot. However, there’s also an argument to be made that it could perform better late in the summer season – which was previously expected.
The other option that could theoretically be quickly moved up is Doctor Strange 2. Benedict Cumberbatch’s solo movie was a big box office hit, and Strange is a much more popular character now after appearances in Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War (and surely in Avengers 4). Kicking off 2020 with another dose of magic could be the way to go. Director Scott Derrickson previously teased seeing Strange in September, and if that was a tease that he’s going to start pre-production, Doctor Strange 2 would have plenty of time to get ready to film early next year and hit theaters in 2020. Doctor Strange‘s screenwriter Robert C. Cargill even has revealed the general story beats a hopeful sequel would cover.
The third, and arguably least likely, option for Marvel Studios is to fast-track The Eternals. If they insist on starting 2020 (and Phase 4 depending on where Far From Home technically lands) with a cosmic film, this is their only known project. Marvel hired screenwriters early in the year and there’s been plenty of word about directors meeting with the studio. Even Taika Waititi recently met with the studio about an unknown project. The Eternals would bring Waititi back to the MCU, but also put the project in familiar hands who they know can move through production without any problems, making an early 2020 release date possible – even as a longshot.
There’s always the argument that a currently unknown project could be taking shape behind closed doors, but these three films are Marvel’s best bet to fill the 2020 date – that is, unless they decided to give up the release slot altogether.
Would Marvel Studios Vacate The May Release Slot?
Marvel’s track-record with the early May release date is well-documented, but so is their finely-tuned schedule. Marvel and Feige aren’t dumb, so why would they rush a film into production early next year just to hit a May release date? It’s been proven time and time again that Marvel movies will make money regardless of when they hit theaters. They’ve already staked out May, July, and November release dates in 2020, but those are just dates at this point with unannounced projects. They could do a reverse 2018 – where they released three films in the first half of the year – and instead close out 2020 with July, September, and November releases.
This may not be too likely an outcome, but it is definitely one to consider. Studios are so fixated on their pre-planned release dates at this point that there’s countless examples of films being made to hit a date instead of making the film right and then deciding when it should hit theaters. That said, Marvel is part of Disney, and the Mouse House’s dominance isn’t going to end anytime soon. With the Fox merger slated to be done well before 2020, there will be even more high-profile titles coming from Disney, so they may not have the luxury of moving projects around too much. All lines of reasoning point to Marvel keeping the date, even without Guardians 3 in its place.
There’s currently no firm signal on what happens next for the MCU and the May 2020 slot, but Marvel does clearly have options. Whether it is eventually revealed that Doctor Strange 2, Black Widow, or The Eternals takes this release date, we won’t be surprised. This will just come down to the stage of each individual project, the long term future of the MCU, and what Marvel ultimately deems to be the best decision.