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Disney cracking down on Marvel’s Phase 5 output and beyond

Price and pace are leading CEO Bob Iger to rethink the MCU

Spider-Man turns to dust after Thanos’ snap as Iron Man watches in Avengers: Infinity War Image: Marvel Studios
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

“Phase 5” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off this week with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, on the heels of a total blur of a Phase 4. In the wake of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his MCU creative team unleashed a relentless stream of Marvel storytelling to fill both theaters and Disney Plus. But a new report, combined with comments from Disney CEO Bob Iger, suggests the all-consuming Marvel strategy may be dialed down in the months and years to come, even with an already-announced Marvel release schedule out in the world.

“We think we have an opportunity to, through more aggressive curation, to reduce some of our costs in the general entertainment side and in general, in volume,” Iger said in a Feb. 8 Disney earnings call. Later on in the same presentation, he specifically called out Marvel (along with Pixar and Lucasfilm), stressing to investors that “we have to be better at curating” the brands’ output and “reduce costs on everything that we make because while we are extremely proud of what’s on the screen, it’s gotten to a point where it’s extraordinarily expensive. And we want all the quality. We want the quality on the screen, but we have to look at what they cost us.”

Quoting an insider privy to Disney’s internal planning, a report from The Hollywood Reporter suggests the changes will be a “massive correction” from how Marvel has been operating in the last few years, which seen a massive amount of content pouring in from every direction. In terms of Marvel’s interconnected universe, Phase 4 saw the release of Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on the theatrical side, plus WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If...?, Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk all dropping on Disney Plus in fairly rapid succession.

Earlier this week, in a buttoned-up interview with Entertainment Weekly, Feige echoed Iger’s plans, saying:

I do think one of the powerful aspects of being at Marvel Studios is having these films and shows hit the zeitgeist. It is harder to hit the zeitgeist when there’s so much product out there — and so much ‘content,’ as they say, which is a word that I hate. [Laughs] But we want Marvel Studios and the MCU projects to really stand out and stand above. So, people will see that as we get further into Phase 5 and 6. The pace at which we’re putting out the Disney+ shows will change so they can each get a chance to shine.

At the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, Feige and his collaborators presented a packed schedule for Phase 5 and 6, with films and Disney Plus shows stretching through 2025. And with news of Deadpool 3 arriving after the fact, it was clear the team had plenty still to announced. But based on recent developments, THR’s insiders say fans should expect changes to the “Multiverse Saga;” though announced for 2023, Echo, the Hawkeye spinoff, and Ironheart, teed up by Wakanda Forever, might be bumped to 2024 in order to spread Secret Invasion and Loki season 2 out over more of the fiscal year and, in Iger’s mind, command more attention.

During his earnings call, Iger cited a “challenging economic environment” ahead, one that Disney would curb in the immediate by laying off 7,000 employees. But the entire conversation had a clear message: we’re going to be stingier, even with the cash cows. The Marvel Cinematic Universe will remain one of the company’s mega-franchises, but in the next few years, it might be just slightly less mega than before.

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