The Spider-Man partnership between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures appears to have come to an end - but it isn't entirely Sony's fault. In 2015, Marvel and Sony reached a deal that allowed a rebooted Spider-Man to enter the MCU. Tom Holland's Peter Parker was introduced in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, and over the last few years, he's become one of the MCU's greatest heroes. Spider-Man: Far From Home even set him up as the next Tony Stark.
Now, though, the Marvel/Sony deal seems to have come to an end. It's turned into something of a PR nightmare for Sony, as angry fans blame them for the situation. The studio lost the fanbase's goodwill in 2014, as a result of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and a hack that exposed their poor decision-making processes. And once goodwill is lost, it's hard to get back - even after the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. But is it fair to blame Sony for the end of their deal with Marvel Studios?
First of all, it's important to remember that the Marvel/Sony deal was absolutely unprecedented. Nothing like it had ever happened before in the history of cinema; two rival studios had found a way to work together, to mutual benefit. Unfortunately, that means an agreement like this was always going to be unstable in the long-term. Corporate priorities inevitably change - for Marvel, their parent company Disney, and even for Sony - and as a result, it was always going to be difficult to keep the deal going.
Even Marvel Studios can only invest their time in so many projects at once. For Disney, the current priorities are the Disney+ streaming service and recouping the costs of the Fox acquisition. Marvel is involved in both of these, with Kevin Feige producing a range of Disney+ exclusive TV shows, while planning how to bring the X-Men and the Fantastic Four into the MCU, a daunting task that may actually share blame for the end of the Spider-Man agreement. The Sony deal doesn't figure into those corporate priorities at all. There are reports Disney made a controversial offer to Sony to keep it going; to split production costs and profits 50/50, making the solo Spider-Man films more viable for them. Deadline reported that they even proposed extending this to other films based on Spider-Man characters, such as Venom 2 and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse 2.
Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman has a reputation for fiscal prudence, and he wasn't impressed at this idea at all. Sony reportedly came up with some counter-offers, with Variety reporting that Rothman was willing to give up as much as roughly 25% of the franchise and welcome Disney in as a co-financing partner in exchange for Feige’s services. In the end, though, Disney was intractable, and Rothman pulled out of the negotiations. He seems to feel that Sony has learned all the lessons it needs to from Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios, and that they no longer need this partnership to make Spider-Man a success. Rothman actually has good reason to be confident. Despite a lackluster run for Spider-Man movies from 2007-2014, the more recent success of Venom and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse proves that Sony can make Spider-Man-related films work without Marvel's involvement. Fans tend to assume that Marvel alone made Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home a success, but the wall-crawler is still the most marketable superhero in the world. Furthermore, the Chinese market is increasingly invested in superhero films, and it seems increasingly interested in the Spider-Man franchise - irrespective of MCU connections. Venom was a hit in China, grossing $269 million in the Chinese box office, and was granted an extended box office run. So Rothman arguably has a strong case.
The apparent end of the Marvel/Sony deal is undoubtedly a blow for the MCU, and as such it's left fans reeling in shock and fury. As tempting as it may be to indulge in the "blame game," the reality seems to be that both companies made completely logical decisions based on their own interests and corporate priorities. And it's worth remembering this isn't necessarily over yet; Sony's official statement hints that the studio is still willing to return to the table, and some insiders believe this public breakup may be a negotiating strategy to force Disney back to the table. If so, the ball has been placed firmly back in Marvel's court.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021