Are Sony's Massive Marvel Plans A Trick To Sell Its Movie Studio?

Black Cat Venom and Spider-Man

Sony Pictures has restructured its upcoming slate of Marvel spinoff movies, refreshing speculation that Sony may be looking to sell its movie production branch. The news comes amid ongoing negotiations for the sale of Fox to The Walt Disney Company for the eye-watering sum of $71.3 billion, and six years after Disney shelled out more than $4 billion to acquire Lucasfilm, the studio behind franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Sony currently has four different branches within the entertainment business: movies, TV, music, and gaming. Movies represent the fourth-biggest source of revenue, according to Bloomberg, generating more than $9 billion last year, and historically the motion picture production side of business has been useful in keeping Sony afloat while other aspects of business (like consumer electronics) have struggled. However, recently Sony Pictures has been struggling to match the competition from studios like Disney and Warner Bros. - in part, due to a lack of reliable franchises. In an effort to correct that, Sony has been trying to capitalize on its stable of Marvel properties, which include more than 900 characters, starting with this year's release of Venom.

Related: Sony's Spider-Villain Universe Should Just Recast Spider-Man

Recent changes to Sony's Marvel plans include splitting the team-up movie Silver & Black into two movies (one about Black Cat, and one about Silver Sable), targeting a PG-13 rating for Venom (which presumably means we'll just have to imagine that "turd in the wind" thing from the recent trailer), and developing movies based on a range of other Marvel characters, including Morbius the Living Vampire (who will be played by Jared Leto), Kraven the Hunter, Silk, Jackpot, and Nightwatch. One character who isn't being included in those plans, however, is Spider-Man, since Sony's current deal with Marvel Studios means that Spidey is tied to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But with a bridge already established between the two studios, could other Sony-owned Marvel characters soon be joining Spidey?

Sony Has Been Rumored to be Considering Sale Recently

Spider-Man Homecoming Marvel and Sony Deal

Rumors of Sony planning to sell Sony Pictures are nothing new. In December 2016, NY Post reported that CBS chief Leslie Moonves had flown to Tokyo with the aim of making an offer for Sony Pictures, after rumors that Sony was open to pitches for its entertainment assets. In April 2017, we learned that Sony Pictures had experienced a loss of $719 million at the box office over the previous year, due to new releases underperforming. Then, in February 2018, it was announced that Sony CEO Kaz Hirai - who had been a strong proponent of the company's movie and TV properties - would be stepping down, and would be replaced by CFO Kenichiro Yoshida. Yoshida has been described as a numbers guy who is "not too keen on the entertainment business," so his appointment led to speculation that Sony Entertainment - the branch that manages Sony's music, TV and film properties - could be put up for sale, in part or in whole.

On the face of it, the fact that Sony Pictures is ramping up plans for a vast array of Marvel movies might indicate that the motion picture division won't be up for sale any time soon, and that Sony is instead trying in earnest to build its own dependable money-making franchise. Certainly if Venom proves to be as successful as Iron Man was in establishing a comic book movie universe, Sony could well decide that its Marvel movie rights are more valuable where they are, rather than as part of a sale package to a company like Disney or Comcast.

On the other hand, Sony already has an existing deal with Marvel, and those 900 Marvel Comics characters have a built-in appeal for Disney, who already own the movie rights to most of the Marvel universe and will soon acquire the Fantastic Four and X-Men as well. A Disney-Sony deal would complete Disney's Marvel collection and give the studio free reign to bring popular characters like Venom into the MCU. So, is Sony really making plans for a separate Marvel movie universe, or is it really all part of a plan to up the perceived value of Sony Pictures in anticipation of a sale?

Page 2: How Sony's Marvel Plans Could Usher In a Disney Deal

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Key Release Dates
  • Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018
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