Earlier today, Marvel announced that their highly-anticipated sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp will hit theaters in July 2018, while shifting the release dates for Black Panther (February 16, 2018) and Captain Marvel (March 8, 2019). With their massive Phase Three lineup all set, the studio has started to focus on Phase Four, setting three 2020 release dates for unspecified projects. It will likely be quite some time before we know what movies will be occupying the May 1, 2020, July 10, 2020 and November 6, 2020 release dates
Aside from these three unspecified movies, there are only three other projects that have dates lined up for the year 2020, Cyborg (April 3, 2020), Green Lantern Corps. (June 19, 2020) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 (November 20, 2020). Obviously, there's plenty of space available on the 2020 release calendar right now, but these new release dates fall in line with Marvel's usual release plans. Almost every Marvel movie to date has opened in either May, July and November, with the exceptions of The Incredible Hulk (June 13, 2008), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4, 2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1, 2014).
With today's addition of Ant-Man and The Wasp, Phase Three will now span a whopping 10 movies, in just three short years. Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016) kicks things off, followed by Doctor Strange (November 4, 2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5, 2017), Thor: Ragnarok (November 3, 2017), Black Panther (February 16, 2018), Avengers: Infinity War Part I (May 4, 2018), Ant-Man and The Wasp (July 6, 2018), Captain Marvel (March 18, 2019), Avengers: Infinity War - Part II (May 3, 2019) and Inhumans (July 12, 2019). As for the new Phase Four movies, it isn't known if they will be two sequels and a new movie, or the other way around. At any rate, it seems unlikely that any of these projects will be a new Avengers movie, since Avengers: Infinity War - Part II hits theaters on May 3, 2019.
The new February and March release dates for Black Panther and Captain Marvel are both situated just a few weeks before upcoming Warner Bros. and DC Comics adaptations. Black Panther's February 16, 2018 comes just a month before WB/DC's The Flash on March 23, 2018, and Captain Marvel's March 8, 2019 release comes almost exactly one month before Shazam! arrives on April 5, 2019. It's possible that these shifts could be strategic plays, with Marvel situating their films just before DC's, possibly trying to gain early momentum with the superhero crowd before DC's adaptations arrive, but we don't know for sure.
Regardless of the studio's strategy, these movies mark the first time that Marvel will open movies in the months of February and March. It's possible that the studio is either experimenting with these lesser-known properties, to see if superhero fans will still flock to theaters in these early months of the year, but their first three movies in Phase Four go back to the studio's tried and true release model. Whether or not this strategy pays off at the box office remains to be seen, but we'll keep you posted with any updates on the MCU slate. Do you have any theories about what the first three Phase 4 movies will be?