If you've enjoyed Walt Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) bevy of Marvel-based comic book movies so far, you're gonna love this.
On Monday, comics fans cheered after Disney announced it was moving the release date of Marvel Studios' Ant-Man up by three months to July 31, 2015.
Still, some investors worried that the move to an already-crowded busy summer season was a bad idea, especially considering it meant Ant-Man would potentially be cannibalizing sales from the fifth installment of Disney's Pirates of the Carribean franchise, originally scheduled for a July 10, 2015, debut.
What's more, the new date also pits Ant-Man directly against the highly anticipated July 17, 2015, release date of Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) Man of Steel 2, for which blockbuster status already seems a foregone conclusion given that the first film brought in a whopping $661 million in gross box-office receipts worldwide. That's also not to mention Man of Steel 2 should benefit from its novelty factor, with the incorruptible Batman playing antagonist to an equally unwavering Superman.
And while the relatively unknown Ant-Man may pique the curiosity of audiences with a novelty of its own, the property still has work to do to convince the broader movie-going public that it's worth their time and money.
Here's what Disney's doing
But on Tuesday, Disney's plans started to become more clear after the company said it was pushing back the release of Pirates 5, blaming script issues for the delay as producer Jerry Bruckheimer stated he was hopeful the film would be ready for the summer of 2016.
Remember, however, that Marvel is also planning a May 2015 release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the predecessor for which more than doubled the original Man of Steel's impressive box-office take by pulling in a gross of nearly $1.512 billion.
By moving Ant-Man's release up by three months, then, Disney will be able to accomplish two things.
First, remember Time Warner is bringing Batman into DC Comics' Man of Steel mix in an attempt to re-create Disney's success with Marvel, through which it hopes to bring its own universe of comic-book characters to life on the big screen. Most notably down the road, that's why it seems a safe bet Time Warner can't wait until the DC character development has moved far enough along to merit a Justice League film.
Of course, both companies know there's no sense in trying to force their own blockbusters to square off directly against each other with simultaneous release dates, but Disney has no problem using one of its lesser-known, unproven properties like Ant-Man to serve as a well-orchestrated distraction from the competition.
Second, given all the comic book movie hype, it's easy to forget Disney is working hard to bring the next Star Wars film to fruition in 2015. And while fellow Fool Tim Beyers recently argued that December 2015 would be a great time to squeeze it in, this week's new developments open up a coveted fall season spot for which I think Star Wars Episode 7 would be a shoo-in.
That does put it awfully close to Lions Gate's (NYSE: LGF ) planned release of the final installment of its popular Hunger Games trilogy in November the same year -- and that'll probably do quite well in its own right, considering the first Hunger Games movies brought in more than $691 million last year -- but I have to agree with analysts who've already gone out on a limb to predict that rabid Star Wars fans could easily drive Episode 7's ticket sales over $1 billion when it eventually hits theaters, regardless of the influence of any other films released around the same time.
In the end, that's why I'm convinced Disney has everything in its studios business right where it needs to be, so investors can stop worrying about when their company has chosen to release its films. Instead, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
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