It was reported as rumor weeks ago but now it's a fact: in the wake of the record-setting opening weekend of Captain America: The Winter Soldier Disney has set Captain America 3 officially on May 6, 2016. That's the same opening weekend of Batman vs Superman.
Marvel had that date first; it was one of the weekends they colonized with their 'Unnamed Marvel Movies,' and after BvS realized it couldn't make summer 2015 Warner Bros plopped it on that weekend. It seemed like a good strategy - early summer, against a movie that was just a placeholder. Surely Marvel would move. Surely.
Then came the rumor that Marvel was putting Cap 3 there, and many people failed to see how that film could be a threat to BvS. After all, Cap is a second-tier hero whose first film didn't even break $200m domestic. People who had seen The Winter Soldier understood it, though, and after this weekend I think everybody gets it - The Winter Soldier will have beaten the first Captain America at the domestic box office by its second weekend. Hell, it'll probably beat the first film's worldwide total by next weekend. This is The Avengers bump in action. And since there's The Avengers: Age of Ultron between now and Cap 3 - and since audiences are really popping for The Winter Soldier - there's no reason to expect the third film to be anything but a massive success.
Unless, of course, it barrels headfirst into a Batman vs Superman ceiling. Right? So what is Marvel thinking placing their rising star against the two most iconic DC characters, coming together for the first time? Simple: they smell the blood in the water. While Man of Steel did better than the disappointing Superman Returns it also disappointed; that movie was supposed to be a billion dollar earner. Let's put it this way: Warner Bros didn't throw Batman into the sequel because they had faith in it. By the time Captain America 3 hits Marvel will be in its peak period - unless The Avengers: Age of Ultron is an unwatchable disaster it should be one of the biggest movies of all time, and it's leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a great place for Phase Three - while Warner Bros is still trying to establish their post-Nolan superhero universe.
That's why Warner Bros has to blink. They could very well win that weekend against Marvel, but they have more to lose in a head-to-head fight. We are the kind of people who will go to both films that weekend, but is that true of the general audience? Will Captain America 3, coming in second place, cost BvS tens of millions of dollars? Tens of millions of dollars that will make the whole thing feel hobbled? See, Marvel can afford to throw the good Captain into that meat-grinder because they have a larger franchise game in play, but Warner Bros is still finding their feet. They need this movie to be huge because they're using their most popular characters all at once. Let's put it this way - Marvel wouldn't want BvS opening against Age of Ultron for the same reason.
Even if WB wins the weekend - and let's be honest, I'm not even sure that's a gimme at this point - the story becomes how well Captain America did against Batman AND Superman. Unless Warner Bros thinks they can straight up humiliate Marvel that weekend I don't see an up side to them staying put. And if anything, moving further into the summer allows Zack Snyder and company precious weeks to get their movie right. Hell, I'm half convinced that Marvel knows Warner Bros has been considering a move already and is just straight up trolling them.
If the two movies stay put it'll be interesting. There's been a lot of whining about an overabundance of superhero movies, a complaint I find weird when there are four superhero movies opening this year. That really isn't a major percentage of the films opening wide in 2014 by any accounting. But if two open on the same weekend? Man, I can only imagine the whining from film snobs who think the superhero genre is beneath them. I actually kind of look forward to the gnashing of teeth sure to come from the more irritating corners of the critical establishment - you know, the people who seem to think two movies a year from Marvel Studios is a terrifying overkill.