LOS ANGELES — This weekend was just the beginning of Hollywood's Iron age.
Marvel Studios announced Monday it will release "Iron Man 2" on April 30, 2010, following the success of the first in the comic-book franchise, which pulled in $104.2 million domestically since opening last Thursday and $201 million worldwide.
Four other films based on Marvel superheroes also were announced: "Thor," due out June 4, 2010; "The First Avenger: Captain America," May 6, 2011; "The Avengers," July 2011; and "Ant-Man," which is in development but has no release date.
Marvel also has "The Incredible Hulk," starring Edward Norton, coming out this June 13 from Universal Studios.
Just as Downey's character, Tony Stark, makes an appearance in next month's "The Incredible Hulk," the Hulk could turn up in "Iron Man 2," Marvel Studios Chairman David Maisel said during a conference call to discuss the company's earnings. And "The Avengers" consists of a rotating roster of Marvel heroes _ including original members Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man and Thor _ that could see the return of virtually any of the franchise's characters.
"In controlling our destiny, we can control where the characters are and we can have our movies connect and be in the same universe," Maisel said.
"Iron Man" was the first film financed by Marvel, which previously licensed its superheroes to Hollywood studios for such hits as the "Spider-Man," "X-men" and "Fantastic Four" flicks.
Seeking more creative control and a bigger cut of the receipts, Marvel plans to make future films itself and hire studios to distribute them for a fee.
Starring Robert Downey Jr. as a billionaire weapons designer who builds himself a high-tech metal suit to fight bad guys, "Iron Man" exceeded box-office expectations, coming in second only to the first "Spider-Man" for debuts among non-sequels.