One day after it scored a breathtaking $114.8m opening weekend with Spider-Man in North America, Columbia Pictures has announced that Spider-Man 2 is already dated for release on May 7, 2004. The film will go into production early next year.

While the storyline will remain a closely guarded secret, the picture will reunite director Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco, who had previously committed to a sequel.

The snagging of the early May, 2004, release slot indicates how studios are now planning their tentpole franchise movies way in advance. 2003 alone will see releases for The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King from New Line, Charlie's Angels 2: Halo and Bad Boys 2 from Columbia, X-Men 2 from 20th Century Fox and The Hulk from Universal, and The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines from Warner Bros.