"Avengers: Endgame" just lost its crown as the biggest box office hit of all time, but the Marvel superhero spectacular still looms large over parent company Disney's plans for the small screen as well as re-opening theaters.
The 2019 smash hit -- whose $2.798 billion haul was surpassed by last weekend's Chinese re-release of "Avatar" -- was a unique theatrical "event" which concluded the plots of 21 previous, inter-connected films.
Those eagerly anticipated storylines continue Friday not in theaters but on Disney+ -- the streaming platform seen as central to the Mouse House's future -- with six-episode series "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige is adamant that fans of his studio's explosive superhero antics will not miss out during the pandemic-accelerated shift to the small screen.
"We kept saying 'if we're going to do a series with Falcon and Winter Soldier in it, we need to at least start off with the best action that we've ever seen,'" Feige told a virtual press conference.
"And we've seen a lot of cool action with both of them before."
The two characters -- known to comic book fans as Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes -- were relatively minor roles in the Marvel films.
But as his superhero name suggests, Falcon can fly -- thanks to a hi-tech winged jetpack -- and the opening sequence of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" is a special effects-laden aerial spectacular.
"Just because it's on TV, doesn't mean it's not going to be as big as it could possibly be as a movie," added Feige.
- 'Evolved' -
"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" is in fact the second Marvel show to hit Disney+.
It follows the oddball and quirky yet critically adored "WandaVision," whose place within the franchise's overarching story was cryptic to say the least.
But "Falcon" -- which was intended to arrive first, before production was derailed by the pandemic and earthquakes in Puerto Rico -- follows on more directly from "Endgame," and is overall much more familiar territory for fans of the movies.
"It was pretty on par with the films, I felt -- actually, even more evolved and intense," said co-star Sebastian Stan of the action sequences, which also used the same stuntmen as the movies.
While plot details are under wraps, the pilot sees Wilson (Anthony Mackie) still struggling with the loss of Captain America -- who appeared to pass the superhero mantle to him in "Avengers: Endgame," in the form of his iconic shield.
Meanwhile Barnes is undergoing therapy after his horrific experiences outlined in the films.
"As crazy and extraordinary and science fiction and fantasy and supernatural" as Marvel stories can be, "the character experiences and the emotions of the character (are) always by far the most important anchor," said Feige.
The characters have been through trauma which is easily forgotten when "there's sparkly portals opening and people cheering and a giant man punching a flying lizard," he joked.
"But... they would have repercussions, years down the line, and that is very fun to explore" over a six-hour series, Feige added.