Disney delays Doctor Strange, Thor, Black Panther, and other MCU films

Due to multiple factors, Disney and Marvel Studios have decided to delay multiple MCU Phase Four films for 2022 and 2023.

In what will likely cause disappointment among MCU fans, Disney and Marvel Studios have opted to push back the entire 2022 to 2023 series of films for a later release date.

Disney and Marvel Studios have pushed the release dates of MCU films for 2022 and 2023. (Images: Disney/Marvel Studios)
Disney and Marvel Studios have pushed the release dates of MCU films for 2022 and 2023. (Images: Disney/Marvel Studios)

While delays for major films, particularly Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, have been common during the Coronavirus pandemic, this new set of delays will not make anyone happy. It is also not isolated to just Marvel projects, as Disney also announced delaying the release for the fifth Indiana Jones film starring Harrison Ford.

Which movies have been pushed back and how does this affect the Disney and Marvel schedules? Check out the details below.

Phase Four films updated release schedules

With the decision made by the higher-ups in Disney and Marvel Studios, at least five MCU films have had their theatrical release schedules modified as follows:

  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
    • Original release target: March 25, 2022
    • New release target: May 6, 2022
  • Thor: Love & Thunder
    • Original release target: May 6, 2022
    • New release target: July 8, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
    • Original release target: July 8, 2022
    • New release target: November 11, 2022
  • The Marvels
    • Original release target: November 11, 2022
    • New release target: February 17, 2023
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
    • Original release target: February 17. 2023
    • New release target: July 28, 2023

Note that the films simply moved from their release to another project’s prior release schedule. This does mean there will be no MCU film for most of the first half of 2022. Furthermore, it affects at least three other Marvel movies that are still unidentified.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has been moved to a July 28, 2023 release, dropping an unnamed MCU project from the slate.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has been moved to a July 28, 2023 release, dropping an unnamed MCU project from the slate.

One has been actually moved up from a prior November 10, 2023 release to November 3rd. The other unnamed Marvel project that was scheduled for July 28th has been removed from the slate (as the date now belongs to the Quantumania release). The third project that was scheduled for October 6, 2021 has also been dropped from the updated release schedule. It should be noted that this does not mean these projects are cancelled.

Curiously, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 that is scheduled for a release of May 5, 2023 has not been announced to change its theatrical release, though it falls between The Marvels and Quantumania. This may still change later on, as it would be unusual and impractical to have 3 franchise films released so close together.

Kevin Feige speaks

In an interview with Variety during the world premiere of Eternals in Los Angeles, Marvel Studios President and head of creative development Kevin Feige had this to say about the new delays to Marvel Phase Four films:

It's production shifts and changes, and because we have so many slots, we can just shift slots.

This answer is not particularly descriptive, although it does seem at least one of the major factors is scheduling production for projects already in mid to late stages. Earlier this year, there were already delays made to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness for reshoots.

However, it does not completely debunk the persistent rumors that the final box office results of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Venom 2, which were noteworthy but not stellar (even for COVID-19 levels), had something to do with the decision to delay upcoming MCU films. What contributes to this speculation is that the entire slate after 2021 has been altered by this development.

Another potential contributing factor may be the feedback from early test screenings. Although no official early reviews have been made public, there are rumors that some concerns were raised during the test screenings of Eternals. If there is a similar lukewarm reaction to highly anticipated projects, particularly with sequels to major properties in the MCU stable, delaying them for further polishing would not just be prudent, but necessary.

Rumored DC Fandome effect?

One point to consider about the timing of this series of Marvel films being delayed is it occurs right after the massive positive fan reactions from the slates revealed in the recent DC Fandome event. Speculation has arisen among industry insiders that the trailer reveals and fan response on the upcoming Black Adam, The Flash, and The Batman have factored in to the new delayed releases of the 2022 to 2023 Marvel Studios projects.

Could this be the case? Again, the timing of the announcement comes into play. Had the announcements of the delayed MCU projects been made prior to DC Fandome, these speculations would likely have not surfaced.

This is particularly the case with the release date of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The earlier release date was March 25, 2022. That placed it only 2 to 3 weeks after DC Entertainment/Warner Bros. releases The Batman directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson. Given the buzz generated after the new The Batman trailer debuted, pushing the Doctor Strange sequel to May is probably a good idea in order to avoid clashing box office returns (especially with movie theater box office returns still far below pre-pandemic benchmarks).

Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Disney+

While the decision to push back many of the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe films will likely annoy fans, Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home are still apparently locked in to their scheduled theatrical release dates. Eternals has already had its world premiere in Los Angeles. Unless circumstances drastically change, its November 5, 2021 release should push through.

Eternals is still scheduled for a theatrical release on November 5, 2021.
Eternals is still scheduled for a theatrical release on November 5, 2021.

Spider-Man: No Way Home also appears to be a lock for its December 17, 2021 theatrical release date. The massive fan reaction to the first full trailer of the Wall-crawler’s third Marvel/Sony film in the franchise has led to projections that it will be the biggest film of 2021, if not the whole box office since the pandemic lockdowns began in 2020. However, it is not impossible for Marvel/Disney and Sony to change their minds if they decide to push back the release.

Moreover, the non-movie Marvel tie-ins for the Disney+ streaming service have not been affected by this rescheduling thus far. Hawkeye is still going to be released this November, and there have been no announcements as to the alteration of the projections for upcoming Disney+ series such as Secret Invasion, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday special, which are all aiming for 2022 releases.

In the end and whatever the case, delays are ultimately favorable to both the studios and the fans, as it means a better finished product in the long run.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.