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Joss Whedon Officially Onboard ‘Avengers’ Sequel

Suddenly popular director will both write and helm sequel

The story aspects of “Avengers 2” might still be in the works, but one thing’s for sure: Joss Whedon is coming back to write and direct.

Whedon, who until “The Avengers” was simply a cult favorite among fans of his past works like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly,” really hit the big time with his first Marvel project, earning $616.8 million domestically, and $1.46 billion worldwide, according to The Numbers. That made the film the third highest-grossing of all time behind “Avatar” ($760.5 million) and “Titanic” ($637.5 million).

Whedon wrote the first film as well, based on a story he developed with Syfy’s “Alphas” co-creator Zak Penn, based on characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Before “Avengers,” Whedon’s biggest box office success as a director was with “Serenity,” the only other movie he helmed. “Serenity,” based on his short-lived “Firefly” series, earned $38.8 million worldwide in 2006, short of its $40 million budget.

Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Co. — which owns Marvel — made the announcement during a quarterly conference call with investors Tuesday. Iger also said that Whedon is developing a Marvel-based series for Disney’s television network, ABC, but didn’t share any further details on that.

Whedon signed an exclusive three-year agreement with Marvel that will tie him to the studio through 2015. Besides “Avengers 2” and the new Marvel series, Whedon will “also contribute creatively to the next phase of Marvel’s cinematic universe,” according to a release from the studio.

Despite the huge box office draw of “The Avengers,” however, Disney revenue in terms of studio projects remained flat year-over-year at $1.62 billion. However, the profit on that was much higher, growing from $49 million in the same quarter last year, to $313 million this time around.

For the year, film revenue is $4.42 billion, down 10 percent from $4.89 billion last year. However, profits over the nine-month period are still stronger from the year before, up 28 percent to $642 million.

Those numbers also include worldwide television distribution, as well as the box office bomb “John Carter.”

“Avengers 2” is expected to see all the primary cast return, including Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

No release date has been set. However, much of the cast is expected to have at least one individual movie completed before than. Downey Jr. is currently filming “Iron Man 3” with “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” director Shane Black. Evans is expected to begin filming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” next year with directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo for a 2014 release. Hemsworth is currently filming “Thor: The Dark World” with director Alan Taylor, set for a November 2013 release.

Not scheduled to do individual films are Ruffalo, who is currently filming “Can a Song Save Your Life” with Keira Knightley; Johansson, who just finished the British sci-fi film “Under the Skin” with director Jonathan Glazer; and Renner, whose new film — “The Bourne Legacy” — opens next weekend.

Story updated 8/7/12 with details on Joss Whedon’s exclusive contract with Marvel.

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