Sony and Marvel Studios' deal to share Spider-Man is officially over, but what really happened and who is to blame for Spidey's exit from the Marvel Cinematic Universe? In short, Sony and Marvel are both to blame, but it's not that simple. Several years ago, Marvel Entertainment sold off the film rights to Spider-Man not only to get a movie series going for the wall-crawler but also to save themselves from bankruptcy. It worked out in the end, but getting Spider-Man back has been an issue.
Sony Pictures went through one trilogy and two additional Spider-Man movies before eventually agreeing to share the character with Marvel Studios, so the latter could use him in the MCU while the former continues to develop solo, seemingly standalone installments. And for a while it was great. Tom Holland joined the MCU as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and he starred in five movies - beginning with Captain America: Civil War in 2016 - over the course of three years, all of which took place within the groundbreaking shared universe.
Culminating with Spider-Man: Far From Home's release in July, Marvel Studios was riding high off of Avengers: Endgame's record-breaking run at the box office and Sony Pictures was ready to reap the rewards from their partnership. In addition to having a commercially-friendly story and a compelling villain in Mysterio, not to mention being the first Marvel movie to release post-Endgame, Far From Home became Sony's highest-grossing movie ever. But it was also the final one in the MCU.
The Original Marvel-Sony Spider-Man Deal Explained
Sony and Marvel simply sharing Spider-Man wasn't the only major aspect of the landmark deal that they reached in early 2015. While the fine print of that contract was never shared with the public, certain agreements and clauses have been well circulated. On the cover, Spider-Man would exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which meant that Marvel Studios was free to team-up the superhero with anyone they wanted to and in practically any film they wanted him in. But they also had to develop solo movies for Sony.
That started with Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017 and was followed up with Spider-Man: Far From Home in 2019. Given that Sony wanted movies every two years, it makes sense that, if the deal would've continued, Spider-Man 3 could've been in theaters by July 2021. Since Sony would be fronting the cost of production and marketing for all the solo Spider-Man films, they would also retain all of the revenue generated from them. But at the time, Sony offered Disney 5% of first-dollar grosses, which the Mouse House waived.
However, it's not like Disney wasn't getting anything out of the deal besides using Spider-Man. Since they were spending the time to make the standalone movies, Disney and Marvel Studios were allowed to keep all of the money from Spider-Man merchandise sales. For some characters, that might not mean much, but for Spider-Man, that's a gold mine. And if there's anything Disney is truly good at doing, it's selling merchandise - from retailers, their own stores, and in their theme parks. Overall, it was a fair deal for everyone involved.
How The Marvel-Sony Spider-Man Deal Broke Down
Unfortunately, the Spider-Man partnership between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios suddenly collapsed in August 2019, mere days after Spider-Man: Far From Home passed Skyfall and became Sony's new record-holder. And while blame was immediately tossed around amongst fans online, the real reasons for why everything went awry boils down to business and money. Sony wanted to continue the partnership as it was for the past three years while Disney wanted more out of it, not just merchandise sales.
With the MCU's Phase 4 developing several new characters as well as Marvel TV shows for Disney+ for the first time, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has his work cut out for him. And with Marvel regaining the movie rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, as a result of Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox, there's even more for Feige and Marvel to handle at this time. So, according to Sony's official statement on the matter, Feige simply couldn't continue to work on solo Spider-Man movies for Sony since they didn't own the IP.
To solve this issue, Disney offered to split the production cost but also take half of the box office of future Spider-Man movies (reportedly extending to Venom 2 and other spinoffs); they cover 50% of the cost for 50% of the revenue. Sony rejected the offer. To them, they would rather take the chance of the next movie earning a little less than sharing the profit, because 100% of $800 million is more than 50% of $1 billion. And so, Sony countered Disney's offer, but somewhere along the line, the Mouse House wouldn't budge. For Disney, not sharing in the profits means working on the films would be wasted time, and they incorrectly believed Sony needed them to survive.
What The End Of Marvel & Sony's Spider-Man Deal Means
It's safe to say that the biggest blow from the Sony-Marvel deal breaking down is that Spider-Man will no longer appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which means that everything that happened in Spider-Man: Far From Home - from Aunt May and Happy Hogan's relationship to the EDITH technology - will go unresolved. But while Sony's partnership with Marvel is now over, that actually opens up Spider-Man's future in many ways. Without Spider-Man being tied down by the MCU, the superhero can now expand both narratively and creatively.
Tom Holland is still attached to Spider-Man 3 and Spider-Man 4, which means that Sony plans on continuing the current live-action iteration of the web-slinger, though it might be without director Jon Watts. But in doing so, they will have to avoid all connections to the MCU; it's certainly doable, albeit tedious for the writers. Narratively, Sony can fully adapt Kraven's Last Hunt the way that it's meant to be shown on the big screen, which would be a perfect follow-up to Far From Home's story. Creatively, they can ultimately crossover Holland's Spider-Man with Tom Hardy's Venom in Venom 2.
At one point, Sony reportedly considered making Venom rated R, but since they hoped to potentially crossover Venom with Spider-Man in the future, they made the film PG-13 to go along with the MCU's family-friendly tone. Now that the deal is over, Sony could move forward with an R-rated Venom 2 and still have Holland appear as Spider-Man. But if for some reason that's not something they want to do anymore, then evolving Spider-Man's story, as well as his rogues' gallery, would be the next step, as would potentially doing more spinoffs. Spider-Man's future still looks good; it's just not one with Marvel.