How Venom's Success Could Change The MCU (And Spider-Man)

Venom and Spider-Man with the MCU

The unexpected box office success of Sony’s Venom could have a substantial impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While many industry experts and critics had written off Sony’s attempts to turn its Spider-Man license into a viable superhero franchise independent of Marvel Studios, few could have predicted how financially successful it would end up being. Venom’s reviews were decidedly mixed, although that did little to discourage audiences who turned out in droves.

Against a reported budget of $100 million, Venom has grossed over $210 million domestically. Yet its real success lies in its international grosses. Venom opened in China with a staggering $111 million; that's the second highest ever debut for a superhero film in the market as well as Sony's largest debut ever in the country. Overall, Venom’s international grosses now exceed $780 million, which makes it the sixth highest grossing movie of 2018, ahead of Deadpool 2 and Ant-Man and the Wasp. What was widely written off as an inevitable flop has become one of the year’s real success stories. It’s also given Sony the seal of approval for its much-mocked Spider-verse.

Related: Every Spider-Man Villain Spinoff Sony is Developing

Sony’s Marvel franchise exists in a curious state of limbo. It’s not officially part of the MCU and there are no official plans for the two to merge, but it’s clear to anyone who watches Venom that Sony’s ultimate aim is for Spider-Man’s iconic villains to one day stand alongside (or against) The Avengers. Now that Venom is a bonafide success story in its own right, though, things are shifted, to the point where Sony's successes could have a substantial impact on Marvel Studios.

Venom’s Success Makes an MCU Crossover More Likely

Venom MCU shared universe

Currently, Marvel Studios, part of The Walt Disney Company, own the rights to the vast majority of the Marvel expanded universe. Once the merger with 20th Century Fox is completed, they will also have the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool under their control. Spider-Man and his universe fall under the umbrella of Sony. In 1999, at a time when Marvel was financially struggling, they sold the film rights to Spider-Man to Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony. As a result, Sony owns the film rights to over 900 Marvel characters, so it's no surprise that the studio is keen to make their own franchise as expansive as possible. While the MCU and Sony's franchises remained totally separate for much of the early 21st century, after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 proved critically and financially disappointing, the latter seemed to change track.

Soon a deal was struck; Sony would finance Spider-Man movies set in the MCU, while Marvel could also use Peter Parker et al in team-ups with the Avengers. This led to Tom Holland's Spidey joining the MCU, appearing in Captain America: Civil WarSpider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War, with future appearances in Avengers 4Spider-Man: Far From Home and more in the pipeline. Aside from this, Sony started building their own shared universe in a bid to have a Spider-Man movie more frequently than once every two years.

Sony's desire for that spinoff universe to be in the MCU comes from positive branding, while Marvel's reluctance was deemed to come from the unproven nature of VenomMorbius and others. However, now Venom is a proven hit (it's made more than every MCU origin movie aside from Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther) there's considerably more motivation on the Disney side to reach some sort of crossover deal.

Related: Is Venom In The MCU? Marvel/Spider-Man Movie Rights & Shared Universes Explained

The Marvel/Sony Spider-Man Deal Could Change

Tom Holland as Venom Marvel Sony Spider-Man Rights

For many MCU fans, the dream is for all Marvel properties to be under the control of one studio, thus ensuring maximum cross-over potential and a true expansion of the franchise as envisioned by the source material. The Fox merger with Disney is a big step towards that, and it's clear that the potential is there for Sony to dive further into that particular pool. However, the success of Venom may actually stop such things from happening.

According to box office analysts, Venom's financial success may end up invigorating Sony to the point where they feel like they don't need Marvel Studios' help anymore. This would mean the relationship between the studios would get weaker, not stronger, perhaps even putting strain on Peter Parker's presence in the MCU.

Bringing in over $780 million worldwide against the odds and making a bigger mark in China than your competition is good enough reason for Sony to feel confident in their Spider-verse game plan, with or without Marvel Studios'. Indeed, they may hold more bargaining chips on that front than the home of the MCU in that current context. With real money in the bank, Sony has little reason to give into Marvel Studios or sell the Spider-Man rights over wholesale.

Page 2: How Venom Could Change The MCU

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Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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