With the less than stellar performance of Fantastic Four at the box office, there has been lots of fan speculation about whether or not Fox should or will give the rights back to Marvel. There have also been some questions as to when Marvel will regain the rights to the Fantastic Four if Fox fails to make another Fantastic Four movie.
Currently, Fox has a Fantastic Four sequel scheduled for June 2, 2017. However, if Fox elects to cancel that sequel, Marvel does not automatically get the rights back. According to our sources, Fox has seven years to start production on a new Fantastic Four movie, before they would lose the rights.
For example, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was released in 2007, and Fox had to start production on the Fantastic Four reboot in 2014 to hold onto the rights. Since the Fantastic Four reboot was released in 2015, Fox would need to start production on a new Fantastic Four movie by 2022. The movie would also have to be released in theaters by 2023, so Fox simply couldn’t do an extended production time or not release the film.
If Fox elects to scrap plans for the 2017 Fantastic Four sequel, then it’s unlikely the studio would simply give the rights back to Marvel. The reality is that Fox is under no pressure to immediately make the Fantastic Four franchise successful, because they have a wealth of possibilities with the numerous characters in the X-Men franchise.
The last two X-Men team movies were fantastic and Deadpool is receiving tremendous buzz. While Hugh Jackman leaving Wolverine might seem like a long term blow, the immediate benefit is the next Wolverine movie will probably be the biggest, as everyone wants to see how he goes out. Channing Tatum also signed his Gambit deal, so Fox has that franchise to develop as well.
If X-Men continues to succeed like it has been, then it would likely make more sense for Fox to move forward quickly with X-Force, Cable, and other X-Men spinoff possibilities, then chance another Fantastic Four film. There is no reason for Fox to be desperate to strike a deal with Marvel.
By the same token, the Marvel Studios executives aren’t exactly sitting around by the phone waiting for Fox to call about the Fantastic Four rights. Marvel’s film schedule is so full at this point, who knows if they would consider a twice-failed Fantastic Four franchise something they would even be interested in at this point. Odds are Marvel might not be in any more of a rush to put Fantastic Four back on the big screen than Fox.
Now, does this mean that fans aren’t going to see the Fantastic Four on the big screen again until around 2022 or 2023? While it’s entirely possible Fox could just sit on the rights until then, they could also decide that after multiple failed attempts at Fantastic Four, they are just done with the franchise.
If that turns out to be the case, then Fox might be willing to strike a deal with Marvel to return the rights earlier, but they won’t do it unless there is something they want from Marvel. Are there certain characters that they want to use in X-Men movies that they don’t have the rights to? Is there some type of permission they need from Marvel in regards to doing a X-Men TV series? Could a mutually beneficial X-Men merchandising deal be worked out?
And even if Fox wants something from Marvel, Marvel also has to want the Fantastic Four bad enough to strike a deal. With a number of successful franchises, Marvel is likely in no rush to make their own Fantastic Four movie. However, they probably would like to use some of the Fantastic Four characters in other films. Given the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, cosmic characters like Silver Surfer and Galactus could be appetizing to Marvel.
If Marvel and Fox could work out a deal where Marvel got the Fantastic Four rights back, and Fox got whatever permissions they needed for the X-Men TV series, and the two companies struck a mutually beneficial merchandising deal to get X-Men movie merchandise back on the shelves, it could be a win-win situation for both companies.
However, whether that could or will happen is all speculation at this point.