Disney's Fox gameplan: Dark Phoenix kicks things off; fitting Avatar around Star Wars

Contributed by
Oct 22, 2018, 11:55 AM EDT (Updated)

The long-coming and industry-rattling merger between Disney and 20th Century Fox will have a lasting impact for film fans everywhere, but in the short term it’s a matter of when the movies that’ve been in production already get released and who releases them. In order to avoid scheduling conflicts, the studios have been rearranging some titles’ release dates.

It’s actually not allowed for companies to coordinate directly pre-merger (cough, cough), but as Disney and Fox arrange when their titles come out — not conflicting with each other’s through serendipity, of course — a few interesting parts of the plan become clear. According to The Hollywood Reporter, after Fox bumped a few non-genre dramas to make a better fit, the heavy hitters of the franchise world began to fall into place as well.

First is James Cameron's Avatar series, which Disney is adding to its Infinity Stone gauntlet of blockbuster franchises. The sequel is finally coming to theaters in 2020 after years of preproduction, aiming for a Dec. 18 release date. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s no Star Wars planned for that winter. Avatar, with its planned multi-film universe, could be Disney’s off-year Christmas alternative to Star Wars.

The other franchises added by the mega-studio include Deadpool, Kingsman, and the X-Men. The upcoming Dark Phoenix is predicted to be the first Fox film actually distributed by Disney since its release was recently bumped from early next year to June 7 — a move that kicks the high-profile genre film away from Disney releases (its mid-February date could’ve run into early March's Captain Marvel, a similarly female-fronted superhero film) and into territory where the merger should be going in full swing.

The film will tackle one of the most famous X-Men stories and could wrap up the long run of X-Men films under Simon Kinberg and Fox. Then the franchise will be taken over by Marvel, which gives the MCU its most exciting development since Thor cut his hair.

The Disney-Fox merger is anticipated to close in early 2019.