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Marvel expands movie slate with 'Ant-Man' sequel in 2018

Ant-Man still from Marvel's new release.
Source: Marvel
Ant-Man still from Marvel's new release.

Marvel's "Ant-Man" had its detractors prior to the release of the superhero movie this summer. But the pint-sized protagonist packed a punch at the box office, and now Marvel has green lit a sequel.

Disney-owned Marvel Studios announced Thursday it would squeeze "Ant-Man and the Wasp" into its 2018 movie slate, with a release date set for July 6.

Some feared "Ant-Man" would be Marvel Studios' first flop after cult favorite director and writer Edgar Wright left the project and the script underwent a series of rewrites. But the lighthearted and relatively low-budget film went on to earn $178.5 million at U.S. theaters and a grossed a global total of $410 million.

"It just goes to show you how strong the Marvel brand is that they can take a third-string character like Ant-Man and turn it into a veritable franchise," Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, told CNBC. "It usually doesn't stop at two with Marvel, so this is probably going to be a franchise."

"Ant-Man and the Wasp" will be the first Marvel Studios film to feature a female character in the title. The company has faced criticism from some corners of fandom for a perceived failure to spotlight the women of Marvel Comics on the big screen.

Marvel teased the sequel in "Ant-Man" during an after-credits scene, in which supporting character Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, is given a prototype Wasp costume.

Paul Rudd will presumably return to the part of Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, after reprising the role in next year's "Captain America: Civil War."

The addition will bump "Black Panther" up to Feb. 16, 2018, from its original July release date, and push "Captain Marvel," previously slated for November 2018, to March 8, 2019.

This is the second time Marvel has adjusted its slate. It jostled its 2017 schedule after reaching a deal to co-produce a Spider-Man reboot with Sony Pictures, which owns the film rights to the character. That movie will open in July 2017 and bring the web-slinger into Marvel's shared cinematic universe.

Marvel also announced it will release three yet-to-be-named Marvel Studios films in May, July and November of 2020. The studio has released details for movies in its shared universe through 2019.