Last week Marvel Studios and Disney announced – at least kinds sorta – Avengers: Endgame would be returning to theaters. The news actually came from producer Kevin Feige, who said in an interview that there were plans being cooked up, and tickets are going on sale tonight according to CNBC for showtimes this coming weekend.
Unless I’ve completely missed something, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of grassroots groundswell demanding an extended version of a movie many thought was, at 3:01 in its original form, overly long and bloated to begin with. Instead this seems to be among the more cynical ploys engaged in by a Hollywood studio in some time.
Barring more information from Marvel itself, there seem to be a few possibilities for why a movie that’s already grossed $2.7 billion worldwide is coming back to drain audience Venmo accounts just a little bit more.
1: It’s a Spider-Man: Far From Home marketing stunt
Coming just a week before the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters seems like interesting timing, and there’s a decent chance the extended version will have some sort of additional tie to the upcoming movie, the first MCU entry to be set after the events of Endgame. Perhaps there’s an additional post-credits scene that shows Peter Parker reintegrating to society after being brought back to life.
The two movies seem very closely tied already, with Far From Home’s marketing really ramping up after Endgame was in theaters for a couple weeks so the studio could show more footage and explain what position Peter and other characters were in. So this wouldn’t be a surprising development.
2: Someone *Really* Wants to dethrone Avatar
One of the most common headlines as Endgame began winding down its theatrical run – which is still not fully closed – is that for as big as it was it wasn’t going to be enough to unseat James Cameron’s 2008 sci-fi epic. As it stands right now, Avatar outpaces the final Avengers film by about $37 million worldwide.
If this is the rationale, it’s solely driven by the desire to claim bragging rights for the MCU. Disney, with its acquisition of Fox, now manages Avatar as well as the Marvel films, so the competition is less “our studio is better than yours” than a passive aggressive interoffice memo.
3: Easy weekend to kill smaller movies
With this past week’s Toy Story 4, Disney already owns four of 2019’s top-grossing films, and the year so far has been filled with stories of how with a few notable exceptions non-franchise films just can’t compete with the behemoths coming out of the studio. Even other series entries or planned launches have fallen by the wayside. With The Lion King, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker still on the calendar, there’s little reason to think Disney alone won’t dominate the theatrical landscape.
This weekend is one that has no major blockbuster coming out. Instead there’s a Danny Boyle music drama, a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia’s perspective and a horror series sequel. In other words, if an Endgame rerelease can gross more than $20 million it’s almost guaranteed to win the weekend, potentially drawing out people who would otherwise be waiting for Spider-Man.
4: Launching Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4
Feige and others have made it clear that while Far From Home takes place post-Endgame, the Spider-Man sequel is not a part of the next phase of the MCU. In fact, Marvel’s exact plans for the next phase of the shared universe remain murky. While sequels to Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Doctor Strange are in various stages of development, none has an official release date and all seem at least a year or more out. Meanwhile, Feige has said it’s still running through ideas on how – or if – to integrate the characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties it got from Fox.
There’s a decent chance, then, that as the official end of the first era of the Marvel movies. Perhaps it ends with more clear direction for the three characters mentioned above or introduces someone new that hasn’t been seen in the films to date and sets up what’s coming next, providing more definite release dates and titles. The MCU has thrived so far in part because the studio has told fans well in advance what movies are coming out and used each film to set up *something* that will pay off down the road. If it waits too much longer it risks losing the very momentum that’s carried it for the last decade.
As of this moment there’s no official word on the rerelease plans, at least none that have been shared on either the Avengers or Marvel Studios Twitter profiles, two outlets one could reasonably assume would be keen to share the news with followers. While this is likely to be framed as being “for the fans” there’s a more strategic and calculated rational that probably won’t be part of the announcement, whenever it comes. It’s either because such a release would play a role in other marketing plans, or Marvel is going full Al Capone on any and all competition.
UPDATE: These plans were confirmed, with the poster below being given away at select screenings.