On August 20, 2019, a report by Deadline announced that talks between Sony Pictures and Disney regarding the future of Spider-Man broke down. Marvel Studios would not be involved in any future Spider-Man films, essentially exiling the character from any future appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The announcement came as a huge shock to fans of the MCU and the latest incarnation of the web-slinger, portrayed by Tom Holland. This is the first major setback for Marvel Studios in an otherwise fantastic year, with Avengers: Endgame becoming the high-grossing movie of all time and Spider-Man: Far From Home earning over one billion dollars at the box office. The end of the Disney-Sony deal now threatens to throw the entire future of the MCU into jeopardy.
In Disney and Sony’s original deal, Spider-Man was allowed to appear in three Marvel films—Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Endgame—and two films produced and financed by Sony but with involvement from Marvel Studios and its president, Kevin Feige, serving as producer on the films. Disney would only receive five percent of first-dollar gross, which is the amount of money earned by the movie on opening day, but 100% of merchandising profits would also go to the company.
According to the Deadline report, Disney wished to have a 50/50 co-financing agreement in future Spider-Man films, where Disney would pay for half of the movies’ costs. In addition, this deal might also extend to other films in the Spider-Man universe that are in the works at Sony, but not part of the MCU. It’s unknown how much Disney wanted in return for footing half of the bill, but Sony evidently thought that the deal wasn’t worth it. The Hollywood Reporter also revealed that Disney proposed a 30/70 deal, where they would pay for thirty percent of the costs, but Sony apparently rejected this as well.
When the news first broke, many people were quick to blame Sony for ending the deal, believing that they had ruined an astoundingly successful partnership in favor of lining their own pockets. In recent days, however, many have also turned against Disney for their greediness, as the new deal would increase their own revenue significantly.
Disney does deserve a higher stake in the franchise since Spider-Man’s inclusion in the MCU and Marvel Studios’ involvement is probably one of the only reasons why its movies are successful. But the company does not need the extra money, given the massive earnings from its other intellectual properties, such as Star Wars, Pixar, and recently-acquired IPs from Fox.
In response to the end of the deal and the massive backlash Sony was receiving, Sony Pictures released a statement placing the blame on Disney for discontinuing Kevin Feige’s involvement in the Spider-Man franchise. The company cited how Feige’s “many new responsibilities that Disney has given him — including all their newly added Marvel properties — do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own.”
This statement seems out of touch with what has been reported by other news sites and Marvel Studios’ plan for the future of Spider-Man in the MCU. The most recent Spider-Man film clearly set up future sequels with its cliffhanger ending, and the MCU Peter Parker has been well established as a successor to Iron Man, meaning he would likely become a prominent figure in future Avengers films by carrying the legacy of Tony Stark. It is impossible that Feige would be unable to continue working on Spider-Man, since it is one of the most profitable and popular characters in the MCU and an important part of its future.
Regardless of whether Disney or Sony is to blame for the end of this deal, both studios stand to lose without this mutual partnership. The MCU without Spider-Man will have to cope with one of its major characters suddenly disappearing without a trace. And even if Peter Parker can seamlessly leave the Marvel spotlight, his presence will be missed in future films.
Sony may be emboldened by its recent successes with the Spider-Man property—with the popular, high-grossing Spider-Man spinoff Venom and the critically acclaimed, award-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—to believe that an independently produced Spider-Man film will also be successful, but this confidence is somewhat misplaced.
The success of Spider-Verse may be a fluke — this is the same animation studio that created The Emoji Movie.
Despite Venom being a financial success for the studio, it was not well-received by critics. And other Spider-Man spinoffs in development — which will feature characters such as Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, and Silk — will not have the same amount of draw because they are lesser-known characters to the general audience.
In addition, the success of Spider-Verse may be a fluke — this is the same animation studio that created The Emoji Movie. All in all, the studio still has to prove that it can handle the Spider-Man franchise by itself, and to the same level of success as Disney.
Because of the large amounts of conflicting reports and rumors surrounding this topic, it is hard to say whether Disney or Sony is responsible for this mess, and with negotiations allegedly still ongoing, Spider-Man may still return to the MCU. If not, the present incarnation of Spider-Man will be sorely missed.