Spider-Man: Far from a Deal

  • by Alan Hobbs
  • 3 Years ago
  • Comments Off

In 2014, Sony was reeling after The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with a box office total of $709 million, failed to pull in more money than its predecessor (the first Spidey reboot managed to rake in $757.9 million at the box office). To be fair, the sequel wasn’t a flop of on the magnitude of the Ghostbuster reboot, it just wasn’t moving in an upward trajectory. In light of the success of Marvel’s in-house superhero productions, Sony knew they had a key ingredient to success; after all, they alone held the exclusive film rights to Marvel’s most famous property. They just didn’t have all the pieces in place to capture that Marvel magic.

It was shortly after the underwhelming performance of Andrew Garfield’s sequel that Disney/Marvel and Sony inked one of Hollywood’s most legendary deals in modern times. Marvel’s head honcho Kevin Feige was to assist in the production of yet another Spider-Man reboot. Feige and his crew were given creative control over the tone of the film and its key plot points, allowing them to tie it into their own Marvel Cinematic Universe. Additionally, Marvel would finally be permitted to use the webslinger in their own films, like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

On top of all of this, Disney was as also given permission to utilize Spider-Man in their theme parks. Even with all of these concessions, Sony fully financed the new Spider-Man films, with Disney receiving 5% of the first day box office gross.

The first film in the new series, Spider-Man: Homecoming, featured actor Tom Holland filling the role of the titular character, outperformed both of The Amazing Spider-Man titles, with a haul of $880 million. Its follow-up, Spider-Man: Far From Home, grossed over $1 billion. The films had both been critical and financial successes. Clearly, the Disney magic rubbed off. Probably due in no small part to the buzz from Avengers: Endgame, wherein the MCU Spider-Man played a prominent supporting role.

So when it was time for renegotiations, surely Sony would be clamoring to keep the deal going with Disney/Marvel, right?

Wrong. New negotiations for the next chapter of Spidey’s continued presence in the MCU broke down almost immediately, for two major reasons.

First, Disney overplayed its hand with an insulting offer of raising their share of the box office from 5% to 50%. Considering all the concessions Sony was already making (financing the films, allowing Spidey to make appearances at Disney parks, sharing a character whom they own the sole film rights to, etc…), it was a very aggressive form of dealmaking on Disney’s parts. Perhaps had they started the bargaining at 30% and whittled it down to 10 or 15%, it would’ve been a different story. But 50% is a huge psychological non-starter for almost anyone to swallow with a smile. Let’s be clear, while the pre-Disney/Marvel Spider-Man reboot wasn’t as successful as Sony had hoped, it wasn’t an outright failure either.

Secondly, Sony had already been producing Spider-man universe films on their own with Venom and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. Venom alone pulled in a hefty $856 million at the box office, while the stylish Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse was a critical smash, taking home an Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Again, this was all Sony – no Disney involvement whatsoever. Let’s not forget the hit Spider-Man video game either, which was another critical and financial juggernaut out of Sony Interactive Studios and released exclusively to Sony’s Playstation 4.

Disney/Marvel intricately tied Spider-Man, a character whom they don’t own the film rights to, into their MCU films. There’s going to be a giant spider-shaped hole left in their movies if Tom Holland doesn’t return to tie up loose ends. After all, his character was tied at the hip to the MCU’s most bankable character: Iron Man. For better or worse, they made him something of an heir to the Iron Man legacy in their own canon.

While Disney has been on a roll recently with its acquisition of 21st Century Fox and its record-breaking returns at the box-office film after film, along with its ambitious Disney + streaming plans, it was about time that somebody put them in their place.

Spider-Man is one of the few areas where the deck isn’t stacked in favor of Disney. In their hubris, they seemed to have forgotten that during the Sony negotiations. For once, they were reminded that they can’t always get what they want.

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