Henry Cavill as Superman

Henry Cavill as Superman in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action adventure, "Man of Steel," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (MCT / August 5, 2011)

Warner Bros. kicked off Saturday at Comic-Con with a big announcement: Batman and Superman will pair up in a new movie as the follow-up to "Man of Steel."

"Superman" director Zack Snyder surprised the audience with the news at the end of a Warner Bros. film panel at San Diego's Comic-Con, an annual comics convention, and received thunderous applause from the 6,000-plus in attendance.

Snyder is co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, who will then pen the screenplay. Production is expected to begin in 2014, with an anticipated release date in summer 2015.

British actor Henry Cavill again will be cast as as Superman/Clark Kent, with Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane reprising their "Man of Steel" roles. The new Batman has yet to be cast. It's unlikely Christian Bale will step back into the bat suit, as the actor has indicated publicly that he has moved on from his days as Bruce Wayne.

The studio and DC Entertainment has been considering several options for its superhero films, including a "Man of Steel" sequel for 2015, a Flash movie in 2016 and the Justice League film for 2017.

Studio made the announcment of the the Superman and Batman matchup inside Hall H inside the San Diego Convention Center, where it also promoted "300: Rise of an Empire," "Godzilla," and "Seventh Son."

Warner Bros. has indicated that it planned to bring back Superman for a 2015 film if "Man of Steel" performed up to expectations. The film's worldwide box office has hit $622 million since its June 14 launch. "The Dark Knight Rises," starring Christian Bale, topped $1 billion in global box office last year.

The Batman-Superman movie could match the box office prowess of "Marvel's The Avengers." That 2012 Disney release, featuring Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor, amassed $1.5 billion worldwide.

It would also move the Burbank studio closer to its long-planned all-star superhero pic "Justice League" -- finally fully exploiting its DC Comics library beyond Batman and Superman.

"Justice League" would bring to the screen such characters as Aquaman, the Flash, Wonder Woman and another Green Lantern, whose costly 2011 predecessor flopped.

Variety, The Wrap, Reuters, Zap2it and the Los Angeles Times