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The DCU Is Finally Poised To Match One MCU Record

Ever since its inception, Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe project has been compared — often unfavorably — to the Marvel Cinematic Universe over at Marvel Studios. While the latter capitalized on the success of "The Avengers" to expand its cast and the scope of its story, ultimately to deliver a cohesive 10-year saga that ended with a bang in 2019, the former has been defined by false starts, studio conflict, messy regime changes, and discarded plans. Currently, it lingers in a dreadfully awkward quasi-defunct state as it awaits a near-clean-slate reboot from new CEO James Gunn, having failed to accomplish in 10 years what the MCU did in its first four.

And yet, it's in the bomb-ridden final year of the DCEU that Warner Bros.' most promising and wasted division will finally match an important MCU record: four releases in a single calendar year. With "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” seemingly set to maintain its December release date, it will finish a year that includes "Shazam: Fury of the Gods," "The Flash," and "Blue Beetle." Additionally, with the release of "Black Adam" in October 2022, the DCEU 12-month release record will rest at five films — just one shy of the MCU ("Black Window" to "Thor: Love and Thunder"). It's the sort of output fans likely dreamed of at the franchise's peak, rather than its quiet end.

2023 is the first (and last) year the DCEU produced three films

Let's be clear — quantity does not equal quality, as Marvel Studios has arguably proven with their overcrowded fourth and fifth phases. However, the MCU's appeal was the overarching story carried forth at a semi-consistent pace, which ultimately allowed the massive "Avengers: Endgame" to close out the Infinity Saga without losing the audience's attention. If Marvel released films at the same rate as DC, "Endgame" would still be a long way off — and, chances are, many viewers would have gotten tired of waiting for the payoff or grown out of the superhero genre entirely.

While we could debate the hypothetical merits of a protracted MCU, the Infinity Saga still found much critical and commercial success with its abundant output. The sweet spot the studio seemingly found was three films a year, which allowed them to keep gaps between installments short without overwhelming the casual moviegoer. The studio had its first three-film year in 2017 and is set to maintain that pace with "The Marvels" in 2023.

Contrarily, the DCEU previously maxed out at just two films per year, accomplishing this five years out of its decade-long run. Again, though one may argue some of the projects were more ambitious, this likely didn't help the franchise build or maintain the audience it needed to overcome the many bumps along the way.