Marvel Studios has cut their 2020 release slate from three films to just two. The studio has removed the July 31, 2020 release date for an untitled film from their schedule. Marvel still has untitled films set for release on May 1 and November 6 that same year.

This is undoubtedly the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 effect. The film was (unofficially) intended for a May 1, 2020 release, but was put on hold indefinitely after writer-director James Gunn was fired.

Rather than rushing a third film into production to fill all of three of their 2020 release dates, Marvel Studios is wisely opting to release just the two films that were already going to be completed in time for that year.

There are three potential projects that can fill Marvel’s two 2020 slots. Black Widow and The Eternals are the top two candidates. Both films already have directors attached with Cate Shortland helming Black Widow and Chloé Zhao shepherding The Eternals. The third film is Doctor Strange 2, which Benedict Wong allegedly hinted could start filming as soon as December, but we’re taking that with a grain of salt.

Whatever movie was intended for July 31, 2020, has probably been bumped up to May 1 that year. It’s a three-month jump, so that’s rushing things a bit, but a movie like Black Widow could probably handle it. Even if the movie started production next June or July, it probably won’t be as VFX-heavy as Marvel movies usually are and could be turned around in 10-11 months, as the first Ant-Man was.

Marvel Studios usually favors their biggest and most-established franchises for the first weekend in May. As a completely new franchise, The Eternals doesn’t match that description, which doesn’t necessarily rule it out. Black Widow may be a “first” movie as well, but fans have been wanting to see Scarlett Johansson in her own movie for years, so it already feels like an established franchise.

Doctor Strange 2 is the wild card here. If what Benedict Wong supposedly said (there’s no video or direct quote available) about production potentially starting late this year or early next is true, then Doctor Strange 2 is obviously the May 1, 2020 film. I just don’t know if I’d bet on that since we’d probably have more to go on if production was really starting that soon. There hasn’t even been a single casting rumor, which is uncommon for a film just a few months out from shooting.

For now, I’m expecting to see Black Widow on May 1, 2020, followed by The Eternals on November 6 that same year (though they could be flipped depending on where each movie is in development/pre-production now).

SOURCE: Exhibitor Relations