One day removed from the news that Disney and Marvel are bumping Ant-Man three months from early November to July 31, 2015 (presumably to get away from the 24th James Bond movie and final Hunger Games entry), today comes word that the Mouse House is shuffling up plans for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean. Originally eyeing a July 10, 2015 opening, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has been delayed "beyond Summer 2015"--whatever that means. Some reports cite Summer 2016 as now being the sequel's targeted window, but that remains unconfirmed.
All eyes have been on Disney lately thanks to its large cache of potentially lucrative blockbusters lined up over the next half-decade. Marvel's Ant-Man date switch is still being debated by fans, and we've previously considered July's (now former) slotting of Pirates to be suspect. Today's news confirms that suspicion, although it still doesn't answer all of the calendar's questions--the big one being "how does Star Wars: Episode VII fit into their plans?"
Despite two convention confirmations from Disney CEO Bob Iger this year, emphasizing J.J. Abrams' new Star Wars flick would open in Summer 2015, many have remained skeptical about that goal. The primary reason has been a lack of news flow around the highly anticipated sequel. Be it casting, a release date, a title, or the apparent fact that production won't be fully ramped up until late this year or early 2014, the Disney, Lucasfilm, and Abrams camps have been mum.
Does this week's game of release date musical chairs hint at things being further along in Episode VII's process than we've been led to believe, signaling that a Summer '15 release is still in their crosshairs? Was Pirates a placeholder all along?
Maybe, and fans are accepting that theory more today, but it may be too late. After all, Disney now has three confirmed Summer 2015 releases spaced just far enough apart on the calendar so as not to cannibalize any of their box office potential. A fourth would be overkill, and we highly doubt there will be major date changes for Avengers: Age of Ultron or Pixar's Inside Out.
Arguments for a Summer 2015 release also aren't helped by the fact that production would be fighting the clock to make it happen. Is it possible? Absolutely. Would it be a good creative decision? Not necessarily. Moreover, Disney's only major release for the holiday season later that year is Finding Dory. This week's shuffling is the first clear indicator that December will be the earliest Star Wars lands (and the month is wide open for a big blockbuster right now).
An alternative scenario to consider is one where the powers-that-be can still keep to the Lucasfilm franchise's proven history and date Star Wars for Summer 2016. That's mere speculation, but if this week's news has taught us anything, it's to not rule anything out. Disney's marketing department could have a field day by breaking from summer-opener tradition on releasing Episode VII on Wednesday, May the 4th--the franchise's official annual holiday. We're just sayin'...
Either way, an event film like Episode VII is going to be a major global success no matter which season it releases in, while Pirates 5 is virtually guaranteed to be an overseas cash cow again. As for Ant-Man? It's a major wild card. Only Marvel's recent success is giving the obscure property the credibility it has for a summer release. Opening just two weeks after Warner Bros.' Superman-Batman flick storms into theaters is a gamble, but Marvel has some obvious confidence in the project with the move. How next year's Guardians of the Galaxy performs in August will also weigh heavily on Ant-Man's outlook.
Either way, the release date fates of Pirates and Star Wars seem inextricably tied to each other right now. Where one goes, the other probably won't. That being said, there's a good chance that the next major release date announcement from Disney will pertain to the storied space saga.
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