Not So Friendly News for our Neighborhood Spiderman

Tia Tennariello '22

Over the summer, it seemed that the famous web-slinging hero, Spider-Man, was plucked from his friendly neighborhood and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a series of film license disagreements between companies, Sony and Disney. It is easy to be lost in the messy film rights and contracts, so where did the conflict begin, and where is Spidey now?

Before Marvel Studios began producing their iconic superhero films, they were just Marvel, who sold the rights of their original superhero franchises to avoid bankruptcy in the ’90s. Marvel’s decisions led to 20th Century Fox’s acquisition of the X-Men and Fantastic Four and later, Sony’s 1999 purchase of Spider-Man. Ten years later, Disney would purchase Marvel Studios for $4.24 billion, and Disney’s subsequent acquisition of 20th Century Fox would bring X-Men and Fantastic Four back to Marvel. Nevertheless, Spider-Man’s legalities would continue to stay where they currently reside in Sony.

Sony proceeded to produce its first Spider-Man movie in 2002 with a subsequent trilogy that ran through 2007 starring Tobey Maguire in the first Spider-Man movie since 1977. While this series renewed the genre for a new generation, Sony’s rebooted The Amazing Spider-Man duology in 2012, and 2014 starring Andrew Garfield was poorly received.

To end this rut, Sony struck a deal with Disney in 2015 stating that Sony would fully fund subsequent Spider-Man films and would receive 95% of box-office revenue. Disney would receive 5% of box-office revenue, Marvel Studios would help direct the movies, and Disney would have all merchandise profit to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. Spider-Man was promised a completed trilogy and further presence in the MCU. 

This past summer, just a few days after Spider-Man: Far From Home became Sony’s highest-grossing film to date, Disney proposed a new deal with Sony. This proposition gave them an even 50% of box office revenue of the Spider-Man series to replace the original settlement. However, with Sony unsatisfied with the proposal, the companies reached what seemed to be an unresolvable stalemate, with no chance of returning to the original deal. So on August 21, 2019, Spider-Man cut ties with Marvel’s creative and economic control, leaving the MCU to the dismay of fans across the world as fans on Twitter paraded the trending #SaveSpiderMan.

Nonetheless, Spidey’s story doesn’t end there as after a short period of discord, the companies announced that he would return to the MCU. While the terms of the new agreement are kept much more secretly, the new deal is rumored to be 45% of box office revenue for Disney and 55% being Sony’s. Fans need not fear as the third installment of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man reboots has been confirmed for July 16, 2021.