Who will distribute Marvel’s next “Iron Man” installment?
Will there even be an “Iron Man 3”?
With the second leg of the highly successful franchise opening to $128.1 million in the U.S. and Canada -- and with rumors circulating that Marvel’s new corporate parent, Disney, is looking to pry a prospective “Iron Man 3” out of Paramount’s contractual hands -- a number of questions hang in the air.
And Marvel has done little to inspire clarity, with the studio vaguely declaring Monday: “Under the terms of Marvel Studios’ agreement with Paramount Pictures, Paramount will distribute ‘Iron Man 2’ plus the next three Marvel films, and any potential ‘Iron Man 3’ film.”
For its part, Paramount issued a matching reply, with a spokeswoman noting, “If Marvel was to move ahead with a third installment, Paramount will distribute.”
But so far, no one has actually said there will be a second sequel -- though in an interview to promote the release of the Warner Bros. comedy “Due Date” in November, Tony Stark himself (Robert Downey, Jr.) subtly alluded to the fact that he’s already committed to starring in a third “Iron Man” film.
Marvel’s somewhat nebulous position is odd in that it follows a rather definitive May 5, 2008, “Iron Man 2” sequel declaration, which occurred on the very Monday after the original Jon Favreau-directed installment opened to $98.6 million domestically.
And four months later, after “Iron Man” had grossed $585.1 million worldwide, Marvel extended its distribution agreement with Paramount, calling for the latter to distribute a very specific list of five of the comics-fueled studio’s self-produced projects -- “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” “The First Avenger: Captain America,” “The Avengers” … and “Iron Man 3."
With Disney buying Marvel for $4.3 billion in August of last year, Paramount issued a statement reiterating its intention to distribute worldwide the five aforementioned films.
“This distribution deal will be unaffected by today’s transaction,” a studio release read.
But to date, only four of the five films in that 2008 distribution agreement have been announced, with the first, “Iron Man 2,” premiering over the weekend.
Promoted via Easter egg in “Iron Man 2,” the Kenneth Branagh-directed “Thor” will star Chris Hemsworth and premiere May 5, 2011; directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans, “Captain America: The First Avenger” will bow July 22, 2011; and directed by Joss Whedon and written by Zak Penn, “The Avengers” will team Evans with Downey and premiere May 4, 2012.
When he wears his “Iron Man” suit in “Avengers,” Downey will fulfill the second of a three-film character commitment signed following the original “Iron Man,” so he’ll still have one more movie in which he'll play billionaire technologist Tony Stark.
That still leaves the question of who will distribute.
A Disney spokesman had no comment, but rumors are circulating online that Disney lawyers are looking for a loophole allowing them to commandeer the second sequel.
And fan site IESB reported in February, “Certain Disney publicists have already been telling members of the press that ‘Iron Man 3’ will definitely be distributed and branded with the Walt Disney logo.