Bob Iger Explains New Marvel Release Strategy

Marvel has its new talking point now that its recent failures can no longer be denied. In the latest Disney quarterly earnings call, CEO Bob Iger said – or, more accurately, reiterated – that the new Marvel strategy is to put out fewer movies and TV shows per year, the idea apparently being that quality and quantity are inversely proportional and that this has been Marvel’s main problem. Here’s what Iger had to say, courtesy of Variety:

“We’re slowly going to 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… 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.”

Iger also says that Marvel will have “a couple of good films in ‘25,” which, as Variety points out, doesn’t gel with next year’s release slate, which consists of Captain America: Brave New World, The Fantastic 4, Thunderbolts, and Blade. However, Iger also said Marvel is “slowly going to decrease volume,” so maybe 2025 will be the last overstuffed year for them. On the other hand, he could mean that one or more of those movies will be either delayed or scrapped; many (myself included) have long suspected that Blade will eventually be canceled, and this may be a sign of that. Thunderbolts and Star-Spangled Falcon have already begun filming – or, in Falcon’s case, completed and then rebuilt from the ground up because test audiences hated it – so those are probably locks for 2025. But The Fantastic 4 hasn’t begun filming yet, so that could be postponed for later. Considering they’re wrapping the mess that has become of The Multiverse Saga, it might be a good idea to wait for later to kick off the Four’s entry into the MCU. Of course, Iger could also have just been using “a couple” interchangeably with “a few,” which we all do sometimes. And, most amusingly, he could be suggesting that only a couple of them will be good, which is probably still overselling it.

Marvel release strategy, Fantastic 4

Iger also said that some of the Disney+ Marvel shows that will be airing in the coming years are “a vestige of basically a desire in the past to increase volume.” In other words, they’ll be burning off the ill-advised crap they produced, like Agatha Harkness and the Coven of Crafted Cocktails (or whatever the title is now) and Ironheart. Can anyone deny that these were greenlit during a period when Disney thought anything with “Marvel” stamped on it would turn to gold? What a difference a phase or two makes. I wonder if this means the lessening of Marvel’s TV output is just them slowly releasing the shows they’re stuck with while not setting money on fire by making any new ones. They’ve already got these series; they may as well release them and see if, by some miracle, one of them clicks with their subscribers. At least Agatha Harkness has some good actresses in it; then again, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania had Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer as Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne and somehow managed to screw that up.

What’s amusing is that it looks to me like this has become the agreed-upon talking point for Marvel. In an Empire article from their upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine issue, Marvel Studios’ co-president, Louis D’Esposito, said almost the same thing as Iger:

“It’s been a rough time… If we just stayed on top, that would have been the worst thing that could have happened to us. We took a little hit, we’re coming back strong… Maybe when you do too much, you dilute yourself a little bit… We’re not going to do that anymore. We learned our lesson. Maybe two to three films a year and one or two shows, as opposed to doing four films and four shows.”

This feels a lot like how Hollywood and the entertainment media will blame absolutely anything for the downturn in the box office except for the declining quality and increased politicization of movies. For Marvel, they’ve found a new scapegoat, and it’s volume. And there is a kernel of truth to that; Marvel movies and shows have become so ubiquitous that people are getting sick of them. But it ignores the larger problem, which is the quality of the movies and shows. If this is their smokescreen for making better movies without admitting they made a lot of bad ones, fine; the important thing is that it leads to good movies. But I really don’t think it is; I think they’re hoping that more people will show up if there are fewer films, combined with any good vibes Deadpool & Wolverine leaves them with, and they’ll continue with their off-putting and universe-killing woke push.

On that score, the most honest response in the Empire article is from Deadpool & Wolverine director Shawn Levy, who didn’t mince words when it came to Marvel’s newer movies:

“You’d have to live under a rock not to know that the last few Marvel movies have failed to ignite the world in the way that so many did… We do come along at an interesting time. And we are decidedly something different. Whether it is of Messianic proportions, time will tell.”

A filmmaker and other creatives (including Ryan Reynolds and probably Hugh Jackman as well) focusing on making one movie great is being spoken of like it’s a revolutionary idea. Maybe that’s part of what’s wrong with Marvel.

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