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Looking Ahead to Disney's Upcoming Marvel Movies, Can Avengers be Topped?

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After the runaway success of Disney's (NYSE: DIS) The Avengers this summer, all eyes in Hollywood are on Marvel Studios and the anticipation for what they can do next. The Avengers has been the most successful film of the year, having made more than twice as much money as Lions Gate's (NYSE: LGF) The Hunger Games, which currently occupies the number two spot.

Disney has stated that they plan to release two Marvel films per year. Investors may be wondering: can these films top The Avengers?

Marvel Studios' slate of upcoming and planned films includes:

Iron Man 3 - The sequel to 2010's Iron Man 2 is due for release on May 3, 2013, and is currently filming in North Carolina. The film's plot is said to be based on the acclaimed “Extremis” storyline from the comics. The film is being co-written and directed by Shane Black, best known for writing 80s and 90s action films including Lethal Weapon (1987), The Last Boy Scout (1991), Last Action Hero (1993), and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Jon Favreau are all reprising their roles, while new additions to the cast include Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, and Ashley Hamilton.

Thor 2 - The sequel to 2011's Thor is now in pre-production and set to be released on November 8, 2013. Sitting in the director's chair for Thor 2 is Alan Taylor, best known for his work directing episodes of many acclaimed television series, including Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones. At this point, not much is known about the plot of the film or what new characters might appear, although it is known that Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen will play one of the film's villains.

Captain America 2 - The sequel to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger is currently in development and due out on April 4, 2014. According to Disney, the sequel will pick up where The Avengers left off, as Steve Rogers/Captain America continues his affiliation with the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and its director Nick Fury, and his struggles to embrace his role in the modern world. Earlier this month, Marvel Studios entered negotiations with brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, best known for directing episodes of many television comedies, including Arrested Development and Community, to helm Captain America 2.

Black Panther - According to some recent rumors, Marvel's next solo superhero film may be the long-sitting-in-development Black Panther. The character, whose name predates the 1966 founding of the Black Panther Party, is the first black superhero in mainstream American comic books. Black Panther, whose real name is T'Challa, is the ruler of a fictional nation in sub-Saharan Africa, who uses a combination of technology and mysticism to protect his homeland, and he has been a member of the Avengers at various times. If nothing else, the film may gain some attention for being the first superhero film with a black lead character since 2004's Blade: Trinity starring Wesley Snipes.

Ant-Man - Another long-rumored film project for Marvel, Ant-Man has supposedly been finally given the greenlight following the massive success of The Avengers. Since the project's inception, British director Edgar Wright - whose previous credits include Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) - has been attached to direct the film. The identity of Ant-Man has been held by three different men, who all share the ability to change their size and communicate with and/or control insects. Also, Dr. Henry Pym, the first person to hold the title of Ant-Man, was one of the founding members of the Avengers in the comic books.

The Avengers 2 - After a movie sets a new record for highest domestic opening weekend and goes on to make over a billion dollars, it is a no-brainer that the studio will make a sequel. Within a week of the first film's extremely successful opening, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Avengers 2 was officially in development, although no planned release date has been announced. Kevin Feige, President of Production for Marvel Studios, said at the premiere of The Avengers that the studio has an option to bring writer/director Joss Whedon back for the sequel.

The moviegoing public will have these Marvel movies to look forward to for years to come. Will these movies continue The Avengers success, or will Disney shareholders be disappointed?

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