Disney announces plans to reduce Marvel output (that won’t really change output at all)

Bob Iger says Marvel Studios will now release two to three movies a year, which it was already doing

Disney announces plans to reduce Marvel output (that won’t really change output at all)
Marvel Studios Photo: ADAM S DAVIS/EPA-EFE

Former and current Disney CEO Bob Iger has expressed his concerns about Too Much Marvel. Previously, he said that the increased volume of films and television series in the MCU “diluted focus and attention” of the audience. On Disney’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, Iger announced his solution (via The Hollywood Reporter): “I’ve been working hard with the studio to reduce output and focus more on quality, that’s particularly true with Marvel.”

Iger’s plan is to slowly “decrease volume and go to probably about two TV series a year instead of what had become four and reduce our film output from maybe four a year to two, or a maximum of three. And we’re working hard on what that path is.” The current slate is “a vestige of basically a desire in the past to increase volume,” but the studio has “a couple of good films in ’25 and then we’re heading to more Avengers, which we’re extremely excited about,” adding: “Overall, I feel great about the slate. It’s something that I’ve committed to spending more and more time on. The team is one that I have tremendous confidence in and the IP that we’re mining, including all the sequels that we’re doing, is second to none.”

All of that sounds good if you’re trying to convince shareholders that you’re actually doing something to combat the uneven reception that superhero movies have received over the last year. Except Iger’s “plan” isn’t actually reflective of reality; there are currently four Marvel movies (Captain America: Brave New World, Thunderbolts, The Fantastic Four, and Blade) scheduled for 2025, in addition to two series (Ironheart and Daredevil: Born Again). There are a ton of other projects currently in the works, and that doesn’t account for however the MCU might incorporate the X-Men into the mix.

But let’s give Iger the benefit of the doubt, noting that he did say the company would “slowly” reduce output—maybe he means the reduction will start after 2025. That’s fair enough. Except two to three Marvel movies a year (on top of two TV series) isn’t a change for the MCU—that’s the status quo, and has been since around 2011 (the year both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger premiered). In the 2010s, the MCU’s TV output was less connected to the films, but even then there were two or three Marvel series airing between the films. (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, Agent Carter, etc.)

Only one year featured a significant uptick in output for Marvel. 2021 is the only year the studio released four movies (Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home). That year also featured the first of the Disney+ MCU TV series, and there were a lot of them, all featuring major players from the Avengers roster: WandaVision, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye (plus What If…?). It was a lot of material, no doubt, but the glut was due as much to the pandemic affecting release and production schedules as it was to Marvel’s attempt at increasing output.

With the incorporation of the Disney+ shows into the MCU, Marvel seemed more inescapable than ever. It would probably be wise of Disney to truly focus on quality over quantity, and reducing output is one potential way to combat so-called “superhero fatigue.” But the plan Iger announced doesn’t actually represent any real change to the Marvel model. The studio will likely continue to be successful—even in this era of supposed “decline,” the company still has plenty of box office wins—but keeping the same release schedule isn’t going to recapture the magic of the MCU’s 2010s heyday.

The truth is that Avengers: Endgame more or less satisfyingly concluded a saga that audiences had been following for a decade, and recreating that in a new story with heroes that audiences are less invested in is a more difficult proposition. Two to three movies, plus shows, is still a lot of content, especially if audiences don’t care about the characters. A great story will always find its audience. But if the MCU wants to make a big change, this isn’t it.

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