The Spider-Man Drama: Disney/Marvel vs. Sony Pictures

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By now anyone who is even remotely interested in the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe has heard the news. As of now (and that’s an extremely important phrase) Spider-Man will no longer be a part of the MCU. For the benefit of those living under the proverbial rock (don’t worry, it’s often the best place to be), negotiations between Disney/Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures to extend their unique Spider-Man partnership has broken off meaning the immensely popular webslinger is no longer part of the MCU.

A little history, Sony bought the film rights to Spider-Man and his unique universe back in 1999 for a reported $7 million. At that time there was never a thought of a huge Marvel-inspired interconnected cinematic universe. But in 2015 Disney/Marvel and Sony came to an unprecedented agreement to bring Spider-Man to the then blooming MCU. It was essentially a co-production deal that saw Sony keeping the rights to the character and Disney/Marvel getting full creative control.

Even more interesting is that no money changed hands at the time of the deal. That would come later. For Sony it was a good move considering how inconsistent their last three Spidey films had been. Plus Sony Pictures was suffering from some severe financial strain and they desperately needed a big money-maker to go alongside their James Bond films.

For Disney/Marvel the benefits were even more obvious. Aside from having full creative control, Marvel Studios could finally bring arguably their most popular character into their sprawling MCU. Better yet, Sony would only get money from solo Spider-Man films. His appearances in “Captain America: Civil War”, “Infinity War”, and “Endgame” – Sony didn’t get a dime. To top it off, it’s reported that in the deal Disney/Marvel receives all merchandising revenue.

So what has caused the sudden split and who is to blame? Many people were quick to put the blame on Sony Pictures which isn’t surprising. After all, as people we tend to defend what we love. But is that really fair? Is Disney/Marvel simply a victim of Sony’s greed? Should we as fans point fingers at Sony for taking Spidey away from the MCU. Well, maybe not.

It seems the biggest sticking point in negotiations centers around Disney/Marvel’s cut of the profits strictly from the solo Spider-Man films. In the previous agreement Disney/Marvel received 5% of the first-dollar box office gross (again in addition to all merchandising and 100% of the money for appearances in other MCU films). Disney/Marvel is now demanding 50% which Sony promptly (and understandably) declined. It seems Disney/Marvel then picked up their ball and went to (of all places) the media.

So what are we to make of all the drama. First, I still firmly believe a deal will indeed be reached. A lot of this is posturing by Disney/Marvel as well as them wielding the enormous power they have right now. And how better to do it than by provoking a public outcry. This looks to be a powerplay by Disney/Marvel and one of several concerning trends in their current business model.

On the other side Sony would be nuts to end negotiations (and trust me, both sides are still negotiating). They have made a lot of much-needed money by aligning their prized Spider-Man property with the MCU. And it’s all but certain to continue with an extended deal. At the same time it would be crazy for Sony to expect Disney/Marvel to stick to the original 5% considering their two solo MCU Spidey films grossed nearly $2 billion combined.

So, should Sony agree to Disney/Marvel’s 50% demands? Nope. Should Disney/Marvel be content with the current deal’s 5%? Probably not. So it all comes down to a willingness to meet in the middle and use some common sense. Both Sony and Disney/Marvel stand to win by continuing this fascinating partnership and lose by seeing its demise. Personally I applaud Sony for standing up to Disney who has been a bit bullish in getting its way. At the same time, if Sony isn’t willing to offer a bigger piece of the pie to Disney/Marvel it’s hard to see them as the victim.

But don’t worry MCU fans, I’m calling it here – a deal will get done. When it comes down to it, neither Sony Pictures or Disney/Marvel are dumb enough to turn down this kind of money this partnership generates.

Keith Garlington (@KeithandMovies on Twitter)

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39 thoughts on “The Spider-Man Drama: Disney/Marvel vs. Sony Pictures

  1. The reason Sony got the rights to Spider-Man was because MGM and EON productions made a deal to stop Sony from creating a rival James Bond franchise headed by that asshole Kevin McClory (who co-wrote Thunderball) as Sony had the rights to Casino Royale. MGM/EON would stop McClory and get Casino Royale and Sony would get Spider-Man.

    It would be terrible if Spider-Man left the MCU because if it’s in the control of Sony, things would be bad. They fucked the character up, twice. I can understand why the fans are worried and have vent their anger towards Sony. I’m upset too but I’m also trying to understand what is going on from both sides as I hope an agreement can happen where both studios could make some money and keep Spider-Man in the MCU. Otherwise, I wouldn’t like the idea of Spider-Man in whatever cinematic universe Sony wants to create or the idea of re-casting Spider-Man/Peter Parker. It does suck right now.

    • I think Disney/Marvel is bullying their way through these negotiations. 50% is a bit absurd to me considering how many other benefits they get from the partnership. They both need to give a little. Right now it looks like they’re both playing hardball.

      • It doesn’t seem absurd – if the two solo movies got over $1 billion, or whatever it was, who wouldn’t want to get a bigger percentage in the profits? It makes sense, though like ninvoid99, I’m try to look at both sides.

  2. Yeah I could end up seeing a 35/65 split in Sony’s favor . Disney is a bully as far as I’m concerned and although Sony has struggled with this superhero property ( although I like the Andrew Garfield movies ) thanks to the MCU , Spiderman has been the box-office win most thought he would be again . Having said that I’m surprised so many have painted Sony as the bad guy here , Fanboys freaking out that Spidey could vanish from the MCU got their comics in a knot . To be honest , I really do not like the MCU Spidey . Holland is a fine actor and does a commendable job but the changes and the casting of other characters , has me really disinterested in what this MCU incarnation has to offer anymore. I would love to see Venom and Spidey movie and in that case , hope Sony takes back the character .

    • See, you’re even more generous than me. I was thinking 25%. LOL!

      I do like Holland in the role but you’re right, the MCU Spider-Man movies do have their issues. It would be a shame if he leaves the MCU after such buildup, but that’s not going to happen. Too much money to lose by not making some kind of deal.

      • Yeah , both studios will make this happen. Anyone who understands negotiations realize there is a bit of grandstanding going on . Like you said way too much money not to continue this partnership.

  3. Well, that’s disappointing. I understand Disney/Marvel wanting more of the profits. I mean, if they make that much money, can you really blame them? But I think I understand Sony’s stand as well. I’ll just remain neutral and hope they come to an agreement – like 25% or something.

  4. Pingback: The “Spider-Man” Debate: Who Has More to Lose, Sony or Marvel? – Cinema Spotlight

  5. Don’t know if it’s that much of an all-time bad thing that Sony is taking back Spidey. Maybe a hot take, but the MCU has peaked inn my opinion, and things will never be bigger than Endgame. With all the announcements on TV shows and other media, I’ve honestly already checked out on the next phase of Marvel.

    Maybe the way forward for Sony is building a self contained universe around Venom/Spider-Man? I think Spider-Man has the best villains out of any superhero, and the opportunities are endless. Sure I get why people think Sony is going to flub the character, but at some point I think they’ll get it right because the template is already there.

    • You know, I’m not totally opposed to Sony keeping it and doing a more intimate Spider-Verse either. I liked Far From Home but I’m still not crazy about some of Marvel’s decisions surrounding the character. All that said, I still think a deal will get done.

    • Also..I’m starting to think Endgame was the perfect ending for me too. I’m still in with the MCU, but if some of these questionable moves fall flat, I won’t be for long.

  6. Just heard the news and I was a bit upset at the idea about Spider-Man not appearing in the MCU, especially since there’s still so much story to be told with Spider-Man in the MCU. I do think that Disney is being a bit greedy in getting more money from the Spider-Man franchise, when they should just have a 50/50 percent of the profits. I hope that Disney and Sony come to some kind of agreement that won’t involve Spider-Man completely leaving the MCU.

      • btw mate, thanks for the…. i dunno what I would call it, inspiration is a bit much, but your comments on writing have really helped be get back into not only reviews (tho I haven’t posted any of them yet) but also my novel. Just wanted to say thanks, your comments were a real kick in the backside for me, which is exactly what i needed.

        cheers mate, you’re a champ

      • That’s great to hear! I know how it feels to be in a rut. Sometimes I have to remind myself why it’s so much fun and to just do my thing (whatever ‘my thing’ is 😂).

      • hehehe. It was just the simple word ‘write’. Now instead of worrying I won’t having anything good to say, I just write and it slowly turns into something I’m happy with =]

  7. Disney is gross and needs to be stopped. Its stans are now bullying Stan Lee’s daughter for siding with Sony here. The complete monopoly of Disney – just take a look at this year’s tragic box office state in the summer – their tactics and their complete lack of morals – oh Gunn is fired! oh Gunn is hired! – is just too much. I wish more studios stood up to them or at least managed to have a win but everyone else is just so weak in comparison. That people so blindly support it, though, is really worrying. I kinda hope Sony tells them to go to hell, and to Holland who promptly unfollowed Sony on instagram and they just go ahead with full force of Venom 2 and Spiderverse 2

    • If you really look at it closely I don’t think Disney looks good at all. They make a lot of money with this deal and are trying to muscle for more. I also don’t like how they immediately went to the media to stir up a buzz in their favor.

  8. Great, balanced, thoughts Keith – like yourself, I’m confident a deal will eventually be reached, business is business and both sides stand to lose more than they would gain by not coming to an agreement.

    It’s also true that folks have been too quick to jump on Sony, but that’s the all-conquering effect Disney seems to have and the unwavering (sometimes blind) loyalty to the MCU…which, don’t get me wrong, I love myself, but I’m open to other thing as well (I feel like I’m the only one on Earth who actually wanted an Amazing Spider-Man 3).

  9. Considering that Disney has the movie market cornered – they own Lucasfilm, Marvel Entertainment, Pixar, etc, they released the 6 most successful movies of the year so far – all of which are among the 50 highest grossing films of all time, one of them THE highest grossing film of all time – with Frozen 2 & Rise of the Skywalker still to go – AND currently own 17 of the 24 highest-grossing films of all time, I’m inclined to be slightly more sympathetic to Sony.

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