While superhero movies have certainly been steadily been taking over cinemas for the past twenty years, 2019 is poised to be a watershed year for the genre.
With this week's announcement that Todd Phillips' planned Joker origin film has been fast-tracked for release in October 2019, this puts the full count of DC Films scheduled for next year to three, including April's Shazam! and November's Wonder Woman 1984. Though there was a lukewarm response to last year's Justice League and subsequent management change, this marks an increase over the studio releasing two films each year since 2016.
It also puts DC Films on pace with Marvel Studios's increased output. Up until 2017, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had only released one to two films a year, a conscious effort not to overextend itself or the Marvel brand. Last year saw the studio increasing its release calendar to include Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming (in association with Sony) and Thor: Ragnarok. That trend continued this year, with February's Black Panther, April's Avengers: Infinity War, and this month's Ant-Man and The Wasp. Next year will see Marvel release Captain Marvel in March, Avengers 4 in May, and Spider-Man: Far from Home in July.
Earlier this month, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige explained the decision to increase the number of annual releases to three as a larger strategy to provide sequels to successful previous films while introducing new Marvel properties to the cinematic universe in their own films.
"One of the reasons we've expanded to three films a year, is so that we could do the sequels to films that people have responded to, because we love to make continuing stories with characters people have responded to, but also keep doing the stuff that nobody's ever heard of, and people go, 'Why are you doing that?'" Feige explained in an interview with Cinema Blend. "It's part of the scheduling process."
2017 featured Spider-Man's full introduction to the MCU in Homecoming along with Black Panther's enormously successful solo film earlier in the year. In 2019, Captain Marvel will build on Feige's mission statement for the studio introducing new characters while expanding on existing properties.
So is DC Films' own expansion simply a matter of aiming for an increased presence at the box office despite not sharing the same level of success as its Marvel counterparts? Possibly.
Since its announcement last year, rumors have persisted whether Joker will be part of the DCEU. While it's still unclear if the origin film falls within the larger cinematic universe, there has been speculation that the movie sets up Matt Reeves' soft reboot of Batman, itself believed to be based within the DCEU. With Reeves' film reportedly beginning pre-production, the accelerated schedule on Joker may be to ensure the studio releases the villain-centric film first, especially if they are indeed related.
The other rumor is that DC Films has been looking to build and expand on the DC Comics brand cinematically for at least the past year. Last year, reports surfaced that Warner Bros. was looking to release three to four films a year moving forward. Despite Justice League underperforming at the box office and the announced Flash film notoriously running into its own production issues, including trouble locking down a director and script, next year's film slate for the studio looks to continue unimpeded.
Beyond 2019, DC Films has other projects moving towards principal photography, with a Birds of Prey film targeting a January start date, Reeves' Batman film assembling its production crew, and rumors of a Black Adam film potentially starting filming in late 2019. With Green Lantern Corps, Nightwing, Suicide Squad 2, and Man of Steel 2 also in various stages of development, the studio has more than enough projects to advance to meet the three to four film goal, annually.