According to just about every Hollywood-scoping, star-scanning, movie minding website on the internet, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is being dragged, webbing and screaming, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The previous two films featuring Holland’s Peter Parker (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home) have been well received by fans and critics alike. So why would anyone want to put the brakes on the money train? Will we see Tom Holland’s Peter again? And is this just a skyscraper measuring contest between two huge conglomerates? That’s very much what I’m here to discuss.
So why would anyone want to put the brakes on the money train? Will we see Tom Holland’s Peter again? And is this just a skyscraper measuring contest between two huge conglomerates? That’s very much what I’m here to discuss.
As you can read more about here, when Marvel comics was more or less bankrupt a few decades ago, they sold the movie rights of their most famous characters to a whole bunch of studios. Sony bought Spidey. This deal gave Sony the exclusive right to produce films featuring the webhead and all associated characters.
After a couple of attempts at an ongoing franchise, both of which they botched hilariously, a deal was struck before 2016. Marvel Studios (Marvel’s own production house) had been having a fairly successful run with a series of small indie films you may have heard of: The MCU and its Avengers. Marvel Studios was, by this point, owned by Disney- the money printing geniuses who sold you a cartoon you’d already seen a few weeks ago.
Roughly, the deal was thus: Sony would allow Marvel to include Spider-Man in its film Captain America: Civil War. Marvel would also ‘help in the creation in’ (essentially produce) a new Spider-Man franchise which would be part of the MCU. Very little (if any) money passed between the studios. Disney would make more cash by having one of the most famous heroes in the world in its Avengers films, Sony would get a franchise that it would keep all of the profits from. If it’s confusing, just imagine Sony as the credit-reaping Wallace and Disney as the hard-working Gromit.
What’s happened this week is that there has been an attempt to renegotiate this agreement which appears to have led to a breakdown in talks. Disney wanted 50% of the gross profits from the next two planned Spider-Man films Marvel would produce. A bit of an increase from the 5% they were reportedly getting for the most recent two. This reportedly led to Sony deciding that they will produce the next two movies by themselves- effectively ending the partnership. So, who’s in the wrong?
The Disney side
I can see what Disney is saying. They’ve essentially made two highly profitable movies and then given them to Sony to reap the benefits from. Far From Home has so far grossed over $1.1 Billion and according to my calculator, 5% of $1.1 Billion is… less than $1.1 Billion. It also, amusingly, makes it the highest-grossing Sony movie ever made. It can’t be fun to push your talent into making a movie that makes that much dosh and barely seeing any of it. Quite frankly, Sony doesn’t deserve the profits from a character they have consistently displayed an inability to handle in live-action.
The Sony side
That said, despite Disney being much more qualified to produce Spider-Man movies, the fact is they do not own his film rights. Marvel has only been allowed to play with Sony’s toys by the latter’s agreement. It is ultimately Sony’s complete right to walk away if they don’t like the new negotiations.
There’s also the matter of merchandise. Sony doesn’t own any rights to toys, lunchboxes, pencil-cases with Spidey’s head on it. Marvel does. Merchandise traditionally makes as much money as movies do (if not more) anyway and Spider-Man’s merchandise in years past have raked-in more than any other superhero and it’s not even close.
It’s not rocket science. You bring out a movie featuring Spidey, sales of Spidey lunchboxes increase. So it’s not like Disney was getting nothing from these films being released anyway. I don’t wanna use the word greedy but… Actually, they remade the Lion King so yes I do. You greedy sods Disney.
What do we make of this then? Personally, I think one of two things will happen. Either Sony will attempt to fold Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into a shared universe with Tom Hardy’s Venom. Or Sony and Disney will return to the table and find a way to make it work. I hope it’s the latter. I don’t think my heart has another Spidey reboot left in it. It would be stupid of Sony to try and do this on their own and it would be equally stupid of Disney to allow the most profitable Spider-Man ever to be denied a place in their next phase of movies.
At this time, we must simply leave Peter Parker entangled in his very own web of contracts, royalties, and licenses which, if we’re honest, has always been his most devastating foe.