It has now been revealed why Disney allowed Marvel Studios to make Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming for Sony Pictures, knowing they wouldn’t receive any money from ticket sales. For years, vocal audiences have been calling for Sony to return the theatrical rights of Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios so that they could finally see the web slinger fight alongside the Avengers on the big screen. Their wishes finally came true last year, with Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War.
A little over two years ago, Sony reached a landmark agreement with Marvel to share Spider-Man while retaining the rights to the character, thereby allowing the iconic superhero to appear in the MCU. However, part of the agreement was that any solo Spider-Man movie would be made for Sony Pictures, not Disney. It was a win-win situation. If Sony was fronting all the cost of developing, marketing, and distributing the movie, then it was only fair that they keep all the box office receipts as well. That was how Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige recently revealed that he convinced Sony to let his studio produce the movie for them, but convincing his bosses at Walt Disney Studios was something else entirely.
In 2011, Disney was able to recover the merchandising rights to Spider-Man, while Sony still retained the character’s movie rights. Ever since then, the Mouse House has profited on all Spidey merchandise – from toys to games – and that has now come into play with their movie agreement with Sony. In regards to Homecoming, Sony gets to keep all the money from the movie, but Disney profits from merchandise sales, aside from the producer’s fee Sony had to pay Marvel Studios for making the film. According to WSJ, the Mouse House expects windfall gains from merchandise sales this summer – and the rest of the year.
On the surface, it may seem like Disney is being shafted in this deal, when in reality, they could stand to make more from Homecoming – and Spidey’s inclusion in other MCU films – than Sony does from the movie’s box office sales. After all, merchandising is what turned George Lucas’ record-breaking Star Wars saga into a multimedia, billion-dollar franchise. Although Disney has certainly been profiting from the box office success of their live-action remakes, Star Wars movies, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, much of their profit comes from merchandise sales and licensing out their properties.
For instance, Disney raked in almost $760 million from Star Wars toys in 2016 alone, and that’s only accounting for toy sales, not all the other forms of merchandise. Considering that Spider-Man is one of the world’s most famous superheroes, we can only imagine how much money Disney could profit off the character’s merchandise – and they have already been doing so ever since they recovered the rights back in 2011.
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