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Here's What's Next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Danny Vena, The Motley Fool

With the release of Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios ignited one of the most successful franchises in the history of cinema. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) gave birth to 23 movies that have together generated more than $22 billion in worldwide box office receipts. Eight of these movies have amassed more than $1 billion in ticket sales, and over the weekend Avengers: Endgame became the biggest movie in cinema history, with more than $2.79 billion in total global box office. 

Disney (NYSE: DIS), which acquired Marvel in 2009, has been uncharacteristically mum about what Marvel fans could expect in the months and years to come. That silence was shattered at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, when the company revealed plans for Phase 4 of the MCU, which will include a host of new characters, a number of sequels, and a reboot in the coming two years. 

Iron Man with a serious face standing in front of a lighted Avengers logo.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man in a scene from Avengers: Endgame. Image source: Disney.

A new slate of heroes

With the end of the Avengers saga, fans have been wondering what the future has in store. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige made an appearance at the Marvel panel in Hall H at Comic-Con and unveiled the slate of future movies, as well as the television shows that will be released on Disney's upcoming streaming service, Disney+. Feige kicked off the festivities with the announcement of 11 upcoming projects.

Marvel Studios Black Window movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

1. Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson will return as Natasha Romanoff, with the long-awaited movie Black Widow. Fans will learn the backstory of the titular character, which has been hinted at since her introduction as part of the Avengers. The film will be directed by Cate Shortland and arrive at the multiplex on May 1, 2020.

Marvel Studios Eternals movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

2. The Eternals

Angelina Jolie will join the MCU, taking on the role of Thena in the Jack Kirby-penned The Eternals, which follows the story of an ancient race of supreme beings also known as the Celestials. The film, which will be directed by Chloe Zhao and star Salma Hayek and Richard Madden, will debut Nov. 6, 2020.

Marvel Studios Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings

Marvel is reaching into its vast treasure trove of intellectual property and introducing a character many are unfamiliar with -- the MCU's first Asian superhero and a kung fu master. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will star Simu Liu in the title role and costar Tony Leung and Awkwafina. The feature will be helmed by Destin Daniel Cretton and fight its way into theaters Feb. 12, 2021.

Marvel Studios Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Benedict Cumberbatch will reprise his role as Doctor Strange in the sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and be joined by Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch. The movie will be directed by Scott Derrickson and was described by Feige as the first horror film to grace the MCU.

Marvel Studios Thor: Love and Thunder movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

5. Thor: Love and Thunder

The story of Thor will continue with the release of Thor: Love and Thunder, which will boast the return of Taika Waititi, who directed Thor: Ragnarok. Natalie Portman will be joined by Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and reprise her role as Thor's love interest Jane Foster, who will become the Mighty Thor, goddess of thunder. The movie will appear in theaters Nov. 5, 2021.

Marvel Studios The Falcon and the Winter Soldier movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

6. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The first Marvel series debuting exclusively on Disney+ will be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will see two of Captain America's former sidekicks, Sam Wilson, played by Anthony Mackie, and Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan, reprising their roles. While an exact release date wasn't provided, the show will be coming to Disney+ in the fall of 2020.

Marvel Studios WandaVision logo.

Image source: Disney.

7. WandaVision

Another original series that will appear exclusively on Disney+, WandaVision will star Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprising their MCU roles as Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) and Vision. Jac Schaeffer, who wrote the highly successful Captain Marvel, will serve as the showrunner for the series, which will appear on Disney+ in spring, 2021.

Marvel Studios Loki movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

8. Loki

The god of mischief, Loki, will get his own titular series on Disney+, with Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as the brother of Thor and the MCU's favorite trickster. Michael Waldron, known for his writing on Rick and Morty, will act as showrunner and executive producer, as well as writing the pilot for the show, which is scheduled to premiere on Disney+ in spring of 2021. 

Marvel Studios What If...? movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

9. What If...?

The first animated series in the MCU, What If...?, explores the roads not taken and alternate possibilities for events that will be immediately familiar to MCU fans. The show will be voiced by stars reprising their MCU roles as heroes and villains, with Jeffrey Wright starring as the all-seeing, all-knowing Watcher to emcee the festivities. The series will debut on Disney+ in summer, 2021.

Marvel Studios Hawkeye movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

10. Hawkeye

Jeremy Renner will reprise his role as Clint Baron, aka Hawkeye from the Avengers films. Not much was revealed about the series, which will appear exclusively on Disney+ in the fall of 2021.

Marvel Studios Blade movie logo.

Image source: Disney.

11. Blade

In the one reboot announcement, Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali will take on the mantle of Blade, a longtime fan-favorite vampire hunter. The character first hit the big screen back in 1998, played Wesley Snipes, and sequels were released in 2002 and 2004. Marvel didn't provide a date for the release or any additional details.

Investor takeaway

With the massive contribution to Disney's coffers over the past decade, and with the highly successful Avengers saga coming to a close, investors were likely wondering what the future holds for Marvel Studios.

One of the biggest revelations from Feige was that not only would the films and television series exist in the same Marvel universe, but the story lines would interconnect. As an example, Elizabeth Olsen, who will star in WandaVision as Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch, will also team up with Dr. Strange in the upcoming feature film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and the movie will be directly connected to the events that transpire in WandaVision.

The massive Comic-Con reveal illustrates that Disney has no plans to take its foot off the Marvel gas pedal and plans to build out the MCU, not only on the big screen, but on the Disney+ platform as well.

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Danny Vena owns shares of Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2021 $85 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short October 2019 $125 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.