LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The superheroes will take just a little longer to arrive on the scene.
Marvel Entertainment said Thursday it was pushing back by a year a pair of key properties in its comic book franchises "Thor" and "Avengers."
"Thor" will now come out on June 17, 2011 (it had previously been scheduled for July 16, 2010), while "Avengers" will hit theaters May 4, 2012 (it had been slotted for July 15, 2011).
Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel said the move "maximizes the visibility of our single character-focused films, leading to the highly anticipated release of the multicharacter 'The Avengers' film in 2012."
It's likely, however, that the studio wanted to ensure at least one tentpole in as many years as possible. Under the previous schedule, it had nothing slated for 2012. Also, as Maisel suggested, the move gives maximum runway for the characters leading up to "Avengers," which will wrap in roles for many of its top-tier characters.
Had it let the previous dates stand, it would have seen the bunching of two properties (Iron Man and Thor) in 2010 and then three (Captain America, Spider-Man and the multicharacter Avengers) in 2011. Under the new schedule, it will space out the characters more: just one (Iron Man) in 2010, Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America in 2011, and Avengers in 2012.
The studio also announced that it was pushing the release of the Captain America picture, titled "The First Avenger: Captain America," back several months, from May 6, 2011, to July 22, 2011.
That move was not unexpected given that Sony, which is releasing "Spider-Man 4" via its licensing deal with Marvel, is bringing out its picture in May of that year. Marvel clarified on Thursday that that pic will come out on May 6, 2011. It had previously given the month of May but no exact date.
Marvel is pursuing a strategy similar to that of its classic comic books, in which characters frequently cross over between properties. Samuel Jackson recently signed a nine-picture deal to play superhero Nick Fury, who will appear in many of its upcoming pics.
The studio's current priority is "Iron Man 2." Casting is coming together for the project, with Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson recently signing on for the project, which will shoot this year.
Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters