Now I understand why Marvel Studios has been locking in deals for actors like Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johannson and Samuel Jackson in recent days and weeks. It’s to further the continuous story arc culminating with The Avengers set for release May 4, 2012. Marvel Studios also joins with Sony in unveiling Spider-Man 4‘s release date of May 6, 2011. Here’s the official announcement:

New York, New York – March 12, 2009 – Paving the way for the production and release of its multi-character superhero film, THE AVENGERS, Marvel Entertainment, Inc. , announced today an adjusted release pipeline for its self-produced feature film properties that reflects the first time individual Super Hero characters and story arcs will be inter-woven and culminate in a multi-character motion picture. Separately, Marvel Studios confirmed today that Sony Pictures Entertainment will release SPIDER-MAN 4 on May 6, 2011. Additionally, Marvel Studios has revised the release dates for THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA as part of its release strategy for an uninterrupted road to THE AVENGERS, now debuting May 4, 2012.

A Marvel character-based film will now launch the summer box office season for three years in a row, from 2010 through 2012.

“This new schedule strongly sequences Marvel’s movie debut dates, big screen character introductions and momentum. It maximizes the visibility of our single character-focused films, leading to the highly anticipated release of the multi-character THE AVENGERS film in 2012,” said David Maisel, Chairman, Marvel Studios.

Sony Pictures’ and Marvel Studios’ SPIDER-MAN 4 is slated for May 6, 2011. To date, all three motion pictures in the phenomenally successful SPIDER-MAN franchise have generated nearly $2.5 billion worldwide theatrically.

Below is Marvel Studios’ 2010-2012 updated release schedule for its slate of self-produced and financed feature films:

Marvel Studios Feature Film Pipeline
IRON MAN 2: formerly May 7, 2010, now May 7, 2010
THOR: formerly July 16, 2010, now June 17, 2011
CAPTAIN AMERICA: formerly May 6, 2011, now July 22, 2011
THE AVENGERS: formerly July 15, 2011, now May 4, 2012

The release date for IRON MAN 2 remains unchanged.

  1. ‘IRON MAN 2′: Scarlett Johannson Replaces Emily Blunt For Lowball Money
  2. EXCLUSIVE: Mickey Rourke Signs For Russian Villain Role In ‘Iron Man 2′
  3. Because Overseas Need Superheroes, Too
  4. Some Good Hollywood News: Marvel Made Ton Of Money In 2008
  5. Samuel Jackson Cast As Nick Fury In ‘Iron Man 2′
  6. Marvel Studios Updates Its Pipeline
  7. Marvel’s Next 4 Pics Kept Local: Move To Raleigh Studios Manhattan Beach
  8. ‘Iron Man’ Director Lobbies Guvernator For Hollywood Tax Breaks
  9. Paramount To Distribute Next Five Marvel Films
  10. Sony Locks In Sam Raimi & Tobey Maguire in ‘Spider-Man 4′

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.