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Disney's new release schedule pushes back Avatar sequels, includes more Star Wars

By Josh Weiss

Today, Disney unveiled its up-to-date theatrical release schedule that includes all of the 20th Century Fox properties it purchased back in late March. The biggest two developments on that front include: James Cameron's four planned sequels to 2009's Avatar as well as Lucasfilm's Star Wars franchise.

Starting with Cameron, Avatar 2, originally meant to open on Dec. 18, 2020, has been pushed back an entire year to Dec. 17, 2021. As such, all subsequent follow-ups have been bumped out of their original opening weekends that ranged from 2020 to 2025. Avatar 3 won't arrive until Dec. 22, 2023, Avatar 4 opens Dec. 19, 2025, and Avatar 5 debuts Dec. 17, 2027.

Additionally, in the wake of December's The Rise of Skywalker (still opening on Dec. 20), three untitled projects set in that universe are now on the new schedule. The first of the group, confirmed to be live-action, will be released on Dec. 16, 2022. The other two follow on Dec. 24, 2024, and Dec. 18, 2026, respectively. Our best guess of what these movies could be is that they are Rian Johnson's new trilogy in the Star Wars saga. This underscores the franchise's upcoming hiatus after Episode IX

Avatar & Star Wars

“We’re excited to put in place a robust and diverse slate that lays the foundation of our long-term strategy, bringing together a breadth of films from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Fox, Fox Searchlight, and Blue Sky Studios to create an extraordinary collection of cinematic experiences for audiences around the world,” said Cathleen Taff, President, Theatrical Distribution, Franchise Management, and Business & Audience Insights, The Walt Disney Studios. “With a strong summer already in place, we are eager to carry that momentum forward over the coming years thanks to a creative wellspring of bold and imaginative stories coming from our world-class studios — including several new chapters of two revered franchises, Avatar and Star Wars.”

In terms of the X-Men, all projects that aren't Dark Phoenix or The New Mutants have been yanked from the schedule. Almost all of them were untitled, but the Gambit feature was among those that were named. You may also notice that Deadpool 3 and X-Force are not on there or just haven't been named yet. In the run-up to the Fox merger, Bob Iger did promise that Deadpool would remain unchanged under Disney's management, so long as the marketing was clear.

Dark Phoenix opens June 7, while New Mutants has been bumped yet again to April 3 of next year. It's not hard to see why Disney has pulled the plug on all of Fox's in-development X-Men films; after all, these characters (along with the Fantastic Four and many others) will be folded into the MCU at some point down the line.

When it comes to the MCU, the schedule contains six untitled Marvel movies between 2020 and 2022. We can probably assume that most (if not all) of those will be taken by Black Panther 2, Doctor Strange 2, Captain Marvel 2Black Widow, Shang-Chi, and The Eternals. Maybe the third Deadpool or X-Force spinoff are hiding among those untitled entries, but Rob Liefeld wasn't too optimistic about the latter in January.

The list also includes four untitled Pixar projects (2021-2022), Indiana Jones 5 (July 9, 2021), James Gray's Ad Astra (Sep. 20, 2019), the third Kingsman movie (Feb. 14, 2020), the Cruella de Vil origin film (Dec. 23, 2020), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Oct. 18, 2019), Free Guy (July 3, 2020), Bob's Burgers (July 17, 2020), and so much more.

What do you think of the new Disney film release schedule? Sound off in the comments below.