While Marvel and Warner Bros. get all of the attention for their cinematic universes, it's important to remember that 20th Century Fox has been doing it longer than anybody. The X-Men franchise started way back in 2000 and the expansion of it was pretty meager up until X-Men: First Class, but the studio has been clever in their approach, plotting out each move well in advance. Not only that, but they've kept things modest for the most part, which is why the apparent shelving of Gambit probably doesn't hurt them in the long run.
With the success of Deadpool still firmly in mind, and plans for a sequel already announced, Fox is looking forward to what their next hit could be. One that has been in the queue for a while now is New Mutants from writer/director Josh Boone. While it's obviously not going to cater to the R-rated market as Deadpool did, producer Simon Kinberg sees it as a chance to tap into another audience base entirely. He tells IGN...
“Deadpool was so different from the mainline X-Men movies, New Mutants… It’s maybe not as different as Deadpool, but it has its own unique, original voice to it…. That’s the fun for me, working in the X-Men universe, creating these sort of standalone movies that have a different vibe to them. And New Mutants has more of a YA [Young Adult] vibe to it.”
Somebody might want to tell Kinberg that YA movies aren't so hot right now. And with X-Men: Apocalypse introducing a team of young X-Men, isn't that market already being catered to? It's also possible some of these characters could pop up in New Mutants, too, even though Kinberg adds that there are a ton of obscure X-Men who could appear.
“There’s a long, long list of names, and I’ll tell you some of the names on that list I don’t even know. That’s how deep it goes. Traditionally, the New Mutants have some characters that cross over from the mainline X-Men movies. As we are going, I would say it's likely that you will see some familiar faces.”
He's right. In the comics, many X-Men had graduated from the New Mutants team, who were comprised of Charles Xavier's students. Could that formula be put back in place for the big screen? That would be one way for Fox to separate themselves from Marvel and DC's movies, and would be a way to take a long-term approach to building out the franchise, which should also include films for X-Force and Cable.
For the record, my dream New Mutants roster? Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Magik, Boom-Boom, Karma, Empath, Moonstar, and Douglock. Doubtful I'll get my wish but a guy can hope.