The Disney-Sony Fight Over Spider-Man, Explained
Thanos may be a pile of dust, but The Avengers still aren’t safe from a massive extinction threat. Instead of a big purple dude, this existential risk comes in the form of studio heads waving billion dollar wads of cash over Tom Holland’s widely-beloved version of Spider-Man.
Reports circulated on Monday that due to a financial standoff between executives, Disney and Sony are no longer sharing custody of the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Deadline broke the shocking story that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige would be exiting the producer-role on all Spider-Man films, leaving the future of the web-slinger uncertain. As part of the ongoing deal between Sony (who owns the film rights to the character) and Disney (who negotiated a co-production deal with Soney to use the charactier in their Marvel movie universe) the profits from the Spidey’s movies were shared between the two studios since first appearing in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. According to this new report, Disney was seeking a 50/50 stake in the character, which apparently was a gigantic no-go for Sony, who had previously only been giving up about 5 percent of first-dollar gross from the Marvel movies that feature Spidey.
So, because the bigwigs can’t get play nice, Feige is no longer overseeing production of the character, meaning Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker may be getting snapped out of the MCU after all. If only they could have come to this disagreement earlier—when Thanos had already wiped the character from existence in Infinity War. They could have just left him there in the abyss of non-existence indefinitely!
Nobody seems to know exactly what’s going to happen next here. Sony has been building a fairly impressive Spider-Verse of their own lately. Venom turned out to be among the most profitable films of 2018, and their recent Into the Spider-Verse won the Academy Award for best animated feature. The studio is putting together a sequel to Venom, which has already received some attention for its recently-announced director, Andy Serkis. There’s a Jared Leto-starring Morbius film in production, and, reportedly, a Kraven the Hunter film on the way, along with some other rumored Spider-Man-Universe films (that, as of now, will not feature the beloved web slinger). Sony may be banking on getting the current Peter Parker—or some form of him—back in their Spider-Verse, and out of the MCU once and for all. This means, of course, that it's possible for fans to get a Venom and Spider-Man crossover.
But anyone who’s a fan of movies knows executives negotiate like this all the time. It's possible that Disney used this Deadline story to spark outrage directed at Sony and give themselves a leveraging tool in further negotiations. Currently, fans are threatening to boycott Sony after hearing the news of Spidey's supposed exit from the MCU. The Feige-produced Spider-Man: Far From Home currently stands as Sony’s most profitable film of all time. Without Feige, can Sony even produce well-earning live-action Spider-Man films? It’s not hard to imagine that executives at Disney expected such outrage. And perhaps they assumed the fan outrage would help get them the cash they want from Sony. If that’s the case, it’s all going according to plan. Now, Sony is trying to do some damage control with its role in the Spider-Man drama.
“Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise,” Sony said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer of our next live-action Spider-Man film.”
And in a series of tweets early on Wednesday morning, Sony appeared to be hopeful that Disney could change its mind.
With its ownership of Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and it’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Disney is a force to be reckoned with. The studio is absolutely crushing the box office with historic numbers that are unprecedented for the industry of filmmaking. If they want Spider-Man, it’s likely that they’re going to get him. You don’t mess with The Mouse.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.