Variety has just confirmed that Marvel Studios has locked Robert Downey Jr into a four picture deal which would see him return as Tony Stark in two more Iron Man films and join up with other Marvel heroes for the planned Avengers project.
Not only does this provide what could only be a huge payday for Downey, but it also gives him a confirmed franchise that will keep him in the Hollywood A List as a major movie star.
Additionally, Marvel confirmed that Iron Man director Jon Favreau will return to helm Iron Man 2 at least, and will serve as an executive producer on The Avengers. In addition to all this, the studio finally publicly confirmed that Don Cheadle will replace Terrence Howard as Col. James Rhodes in future Iron Man films as well as in The Avengers.
So, Marvel's film schedule for the next few years will apparently be:
Iron Man 2 - Apr. 30, 2010
Thor - June 4, 2010
Captain America - May 6, 2011
The Avengers - Jul 15, 2011
The Avengers will apparently feature a team-up of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk, with more characters like the Wasp and Ant-Man rumoured to appear as the heroes band together to defeat a larger threat.
They also have these films in development, which would possibly open before or around the same time as those above:
The Incredible Hulk 2
As an added bonus, they still have some properties being made by other studios:
X-Men Origins : Wolverine - 2009
Venom - 2009
X-Men Origins : Magneto - 2010
Spider-Man 4 - 2011
So, Marvel could become a huge player in Hollywood if the quality of the projects are well-managed.