As Marvel Studios' cinematic universe continues to find success - with Iron Man 3 launching Phase 2 to a total box office take of over $1 billion worldwide - we've also seen a number of other properties return to the Marvel fold. In some cases this is because the production companies who temporarily owned them missed the deadline for rebooting the property, allowing the rights to revert back to Marvel (see: Daredevil). In other cases, as with Sony and Columbia's recent return of Ghost Rider, the properties have been sold back to Marvel because the other studios simply didn't want to use them any more.
Perhaps it's no surprise, given those recent precedents, that so much attention was given this week to a rumor that Sony was considering selling off major franchises like Spider-Man and Resident Evil in a bid to raise capital for their entertainment division. If this were true, then it would open up the possibility of Marvel buying back the rights to Spider-Man and potentially integrating the character into the Marvel cinematic universe.
So, is there a chance that we'll soon see Spider-Man fighting alongside Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk, joining the growing shared universe of Marvel movies? In short: no. This is not going to happen. Not a chance. Sony isn't considering it, and they never were.
The rumor has been thoroughly debunked by SlashFilm, and appears to have arisen from confusion regarding a letter written to Sony's current CEO, Kiz Harai, in which major investor and owner of Third Point Offshore Investors, Dan Loeb, advised that the company sell a 15-20% stake in its entertainment division, in order to raise capital and prove the value of the division.
The talk of Sony selling off Resident Evil and Spider-Man was based on the mistaken belief that Loeb's proposal suggested selling actual properties, when in fact he was simply recommending that Sony sell stock in its entertainment properties. Whether or not they will actually decide to do so is still unclear, as Harai was pretty non-committal on the issue. In the report that started the rumor, over the The Register, Harai responded:
“Third Point’s proposal involves the way we manage a core business of the Sony group and the direction of our management. So the Sony board will give it thorough consideration before replying to Mr Loeb."
Perhaps there will come a point in the future at which Sony is inclined to sell Spider-Man back to Marvel - after all, it's hard to predict whether or not the franchise will continue to be profitable for the company, and how long the popularity will last. But the difference between Spider-Man and properties like Ghost Rider, Blade and Daredevil is that The Amazing Spider-Man netted a worldwide gross of over $750 million when it was released last year, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is likely to see similar success when it's released in 2014. Including the original trilogy, the Spider-Man movies have made over $3.3 billion at the box office, and are currently the most lucrative movie franchise that Sony owns.
At this point, it would probably require a temporary break in sanity for Sony to sell off the property. To put the final nail in the coffin of this rumor, head of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal responded to the reports by telling AICN that she would "never ever ever" let go of the Spider-Man franchise, which she considers to be tied into the legacy of her time at Sony Pictures.
Before you get too up in arms, Spidey fans: As we discussed on our Screen Rant Underground podcast, Marvel Studios holding all the cards is not necessarily the best approach. Marvel only has so much budget to go around in their film division, which means they can only make so many films per year. Even if you saw more of Spidey in the Marvel Movie Universe, that major franchise would come at the expense of seeing second-tier characters like Doctor Strange or Black Panther getting their turn at bat. And considering Sony and Marvel were once planning to merge their universes by having an Oscorp cameo in The Avengers, fans may nonetheless get what they really want: to see Spider-Man and The Avengers side-by-side.
Would you like to see Spider-Man return to Marvel so that he can play with the other kids, or do you like the fact that a few Marvel characters are being developed by other studios, away from the Marvel cinematic universe?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is out in theaters on May 14, 2014.