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)