Marvel has confirmed that it will make fewer movies and TV shows moving forward after a “rough” few years of theatrical flops and favoring quantity over quality.

Speaking to Empire Magazine, studio co-president Louis D’Esposito admitted that the Disney subsidiary had “learned its lesson” after it saturated the superhero genre market with projects that didn’t live up to fans’ lofty expectations. The comic book giant is now looking to reduce its output in theaters and on Disney Plus with the aim of regaining audiences’ trust after a period of diminishing box-office returns, poorly reviewed productions, and other criticisms.

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) riding the crest of a wave in the wake of the billion dollar-spinning flicks Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Marvel and Disney have leaned hard into churning out multiple movies and shows over the past few years, and some films, such as Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and TV shows like Loki and X-Men 97 have been met with critical acclaim. 

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However, for every successful project, Marvel has pumped out an unexpectedly high number of duds. Secret Invasion is viewed as the worst TV series that the studio has ever made, while highly anticipated films including Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and The Marvels earned mixed reviews from fans and critics. In the latter’s case, it holds the unwanted record of not only being the least profitable MCU movie of all time, but also the only one that made a significant monetary loss.

Asked about the troubles that Marvel has dealt with recently, D’Esposito admitted: “It’s been a rough time. If we just stayed on top, that would have been the worst thing that could have happened to us. We took a little hit [but] we’re coming back strong.

“Maybe when you do too much, you dilute yourself a little bit. We’re not going to do that anymore. We learned our lesson. [We’ll release] maybe two to three films a year and one or two shows, as opposed to doing four films and four shows.”

Putting words into action

The cast of X-Men 97 burst through a set of double doors in the Disney Plus animated show

X-Men 97 is one of Marvel’s biggest success stories of recent times (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

D’Esposito’s comments about Marvel’s aim to rein in its output were echoed by Disney CEO Bob Iger during yesterday’s (May 8) Q2 2024 earnings call. Elaborating on Disney and Marvel’s commitment to do just that, Iger said: “I’ve been working hard with the studio [Disney} to reduce output and focus more on quality [and] that’s particularly true with Marvel.

“We’re slowly going to decrease volume and go to probably about two TV series a year instead of what had become four, and reduce our film output from maybe four a year to two, or at the maximum three. And we’re working hard on what that path is, we’ve got a couple of good films in 2025 and then we’re heading to more Avengers, which we’re extremely excited about.”

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The problem that Marvel has, however, is that it’ll be some time before it can start turning those words into meaningful action. It already has a whole host of Marvel Phase 5 and Marvel Phase 6 projects in the works, and if these are to see the light of day (i.e., if none of them are unceremoniously canceled), it’ll need to continue releasing three movies and three to four TV shows per year in order to get them out of the door.

Just take a look at Marvel’s release schedule, which was presented to shareholders, the press, and industry analysts during Disney’s Q2 2024 earnings presentation. Marvel is only releasing one movie in 2024 – the highly anticipated Deadpool and Wolverine – but that’s only because the 2023 Hollywood strikes forced the studio to delay multiple films, which were impacted by said industrial action. 

Now, those strikes have had a knock-on effect, with Marvel likely releasing four films next year. Three have been confirmed to land in theaters – Captain America: New World Order, Thunderbolts, and The Fantastic Four – but, with Blade also potentially entering production this year ahead of a late 2025 launch, Marvel may have to go back on its word as early as next year to deliver them to audiences and boost its revenue streams after a lackluster 2023.

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That’s all before you take its TV output into account, too. Marvel has debuted two new shows on Disney Plus, aka one of the world’s best streaming services, this year in Echo and X-Men 97. Per it Q2 2024 earnings presentation, three more – live-action series Agatha: Darkhold Diaries, plus animated shows in Eyes of Wakanda and Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man – are also coming in 2024. Heading into 2025, Daredevil: Born Again, Ironheart, and Marvel Zombies will likely launch on the service. That’s not taking Wonder Man, which is in development but hasn’t actually been announced by Marvel at any point, into account, either, nor the already greenlit X-Men 97 season 2 and What If…? season 3.

Add in other projects in early development – Avengers 5 and Avengers 6 – plus rumors surrounding Shang-Chi 2, Thor 5, Doctor Strange 3, Black Panther 3, and the X-Men‘s live-action arrival, and you can start to see Marvel’s problem. It can’t expect to develop all of these films, or other projects starring new and returning characters, without breaking its obligation to lessen its output. Something’s got to give and, right now, I’m not sure if it’ll be Marvel’s verbal commitment to actually reduce the number of films and shows it makes, or its decision to walk back on its revived ‘quality over quantity’ approach.

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