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With New Date for 'Ant-Man,' Disney Sets Up an Epic Box Office Battle

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The mega-media company is dropping the next 'Pirates' film from its 2015 lineup so it can place its newest Marvel superhero against Superman and Batman.

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On Monday, Disney (NYSE:DIS) announced that it would be moving up the release of its 2015 film Ant-Man from November 5, 2015 to July 31, 2015. You may have never heard of him, but Ant-Man is another character belonging to the highly lucrative (at least, for Disney) Marvel universe of superheroes. Joining the plethora of eccentric characters that has fueled Disney's domination of the blockbuster season, Ant-Man is a scientist named Henry Pym who invents a substance that allows him to become as small as an ant.

But back to business. This news about Ant-Man is significant for three reasons. First of all, Disney is pushing back its fifth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series to accommodate the new Marvel film. A new date has not been set for the next Pirates film, but as the last two films in the series premiered during Memorial Day weekend, it is likely that the next iteration will do the same in 2016.

Secondly, this means that Ant-Man will be making its debut about three months after the second Avengers film, The Age of Ultron, which is due out on May 1, 2015. The original, released in 2012, made $1.5 billion worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film of all time, behind James Cameron's Avatar and Titanic. Moreover, Pixar will release its 2015 feature, Inside Out, on June 19. It is safe to say that 2015 will be a huge year for Disney.

Because it's set to follow the second Avengers film, Ant-Man's release will mark the beginning of the next wave of Marvel films from Disney, widely referred to as Phase 3. Here's how Marvel's "Phases" work: The studio releases several supe hero movies over the course of three or four years that sporadically interconnect. For example, Phase 1 included Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). To culminate this phase, Disney released an Avengers film that combined all the characters of Phase 1 into one film. Phase 1 ended with the first Avengers. Phase 2 will end with The Age of Ultron. Phase 3 will begin with Ant-Man and will most likely end with a massive Avengers 3.

Finally, this means that Ant-Man will be opening only two weeks after the July 17 premiere of the sequel to this year's Man of Steel, which was produced by Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros. Pictures and has grossed $660.9 million this year. That sequel made headlines recently with the news that it will feature Batman and Superman in one film. Moreover, the Internet has been buzzing about it since the announcement that Ben Affleck will play Batman -- a controversial casting decision. With the release of two major films, one from Disney and one from Warner Bros., July and August 2015 promise to bring a major box office showdown between two of highest-profile superhero films of the year.

For more on Disney's 2015 dominance, see Disney Will Rule the World in 2015.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville

Editor's Note: This story originally said that the
Man of Steel sequel and Ant-Man will open on the same day; it has been corrected, as the Man of Steel sequel will open on July 17 and Ant-Man will open on July 31.
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