Avi Arad, the Head of Marvel Studios, provided industry analysts with an update on the progress of various movie projects based on Marvel comics during Marvel's Q4 conference call on Tuesday.  The big news was that Marvel and Sony had already started working on Spider-Man 3, which Arad has penciled in for a 2007 release.  Today Sony confirmed to Variety that the studio was working with Marvel on the third Spider-Man film in spite of the fact that the second Spider-Man film won't open until July 2 and Marvel and Sony are still suing each other over the profits from the first Spider-Man film (see 'Sony Schools Marvel in 'Hollywood Accounting''), which earned over $800 million in worldwide box office receipts.  According to Variety there are reports that director Sam Raimi will be back for the third Spidey film and that agents for Tobey Maguire 'have been working around a tentative Spider-Man 3 schedule' when booking him for other films.  So Spider-Man 3 would appear to be a solid bet except in the unlikely occurrence that Spider-Man 2 fails to make back its enormous $200 million cost.



Marvel is currently planning on five films for 2005 including the Fantastic Four, which Arad described as a 'tentpole' film slated for a prime mid-summer July release.  Arad told the analysts that the Fantastic Four producers had narrowed the choice of a director for the film down to a list of three names and that a decision would be announced soon. 


Also releasing in 2005 is the Elektra movie (see 'Elektra Movie on the Fast Track') with Rob Bowman (X-Files Movie) directing Jennifer Garner, Ghost Rider with Mark Steven Johnson writing and directing, and Luke Cage, which the Hollywood Reporter says is under serious consideration by director John Singleton.  The fifth Marvel film for2005 is Iron Man, which, according to Arad, should start shooting by mid 2004.



Some Marvel heavy hitters return for 2006 including X-Men 3, Hulk 2  (described by Arad as an angst-free Hulk-Lite), Punisher 2, Iron Fist, Black Widow (see 'Marvel Expands Relationship With Lions Gate') and Namor, which Arad said is 'something quite spectacular, a Star Wars under water.'  Arad also mentioned that film projects based on both Captain America and Nick Fury were under serious consideration and likely to be announced soon.