Summer 2016 just got a whole lot more interesting.
Word came late Friday that Warner Bros. was pushing its biggest 2015 film, the still-untitled Batman-Superman team-up, back almost a full year.
The film will now hit theaters May 6, 2016.
While fans might protest the delay, there are two reasons Warner Bros. executives have reason to smile tonight.
First, they’ve saved their heroes from suffocating in one of the most crowded summer schedules in recent years.
Batman and Superman faced a three-pronged assault from Marvel Comics, which is headlining the summer with three films: Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, a rebooted Fantastic Four and the biggest of them all, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
If that wasn’t enough, new entries in the Fast & Furious, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Mad Max and Bourne franchises also threatened to steal some of the spotlight (and box office) from the DC heroes.
Warner is hoping to use Batman-Superman as a launch pad for a long-awaited Justice League film that could include Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern.
Why steer that potential franchise into the frenzy and risk Batman-Superman becoming the “other superhero film” of the summer?
Friday’s announcement signals a strategy shift for Warner — a declaration that it will no longer be the runner-up in the annual summer of superheroes.
Marvel owns the month of May. Even before Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, the X-Men and Spider-Man were kicking off the summer movie season in May, and breaking box office records with sequel after sequel.
Now, the DC heroes are moving in on “Marvel May” and planting a flag of their own.
If its rivals yield rather than defend their territory, Batman-Superman could have a clear field of two, possibly three weekends as the biggest heroes on the block.
Come to think of it, that’s a lot of time to win over new fans and lay the groundwork for future films.
Warner appears to be following the Avengers blueprint; perhaps they’re already maneuvering a second superhero tentpole to follow that same summer?
It worked for Marvel.