Spider-Man’s web is being cut down to size.
In a shocking development, Marvel Studios is set to part ways with Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man franchise, BuzzFeed News has confirmed. The decision will effectively remove the version of Peter Parker played by Tom Holland from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, separating arguably the most iconic Marvel comics superhero from the most successful superhero movie franchise of all time.
Deadline first reported the news.
The issue, as it so often does, reportedly comes down to money. Sony Pictures has owned the movie rights to Spider-Man for decades, and found great success with the character with director Sam Raimi and actor Tobey Maguire’s take on the webslinger in the 2000s — their three films grossed nearly $2.5 billion worldwide. But then Sony’s reboot of the franchise with director Marc Webb and actor Andrew Garfield, released in 2012 and 2014, was seen as a critical and commercial disappointment.
So in 2015, Sony entered into an unprecedented agreement with the Disney-owned Marvel Studios to share the Spider-Man character. Essentially, Disney got to use Tom Holland’s version of Spidey in its Marvel Studios movies — 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, and this summer’s Avengers: Endgame. And Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige produced Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man movies for them, fully integrating the films within the MCU — 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and this summer’s Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Crucially, neither Sony nor Disney shared much (if any) box office grosses from each other’s use of the Spider-Man character.
Far From Home, as it happens, just surpassed Skyfall as Sony Pictures’ highest-grossing film worldwide of all time, with $1.1 billion. Far From Home also happens to be the only global mega-blockbuster this year that wasn’t financed and released by Disney.
So Disney, according to Deadline’s report, stipulated to Sony that it wanted to split future Spider-Man movies in a 50/50 cofinancing arrangement — which also meant a 50/50 split in the profits. Sony said no. Disney said fine, removed Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios as producers of Sony’s future Spider-Man films, and kicked the character out of the MCU sandbox.
In a statement Tuesday night, Sony said it was disappointed with Disney’s decision, adding that discussions around Feige’s continue role as a producer for the franchise had been “mischaracterized.”
“We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer of our next live action Spider-Man film,” the studio said on Twitter. “We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him – including all their newly added Marvel properties – do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own. Kevin is terrific and we are grateful for his help and guidance and appreciate the path he has helped put us on, which we will continue.”
There is a thread of hope, however, that Spider-Man’s fate within the MCU could still be salvaged. BuzzFeed News has confirmed negotiations between Disney and Sony about the character’s fate remain ongoing, including how much Sony’s Spider-Man movies could remain a part of the MCU.
This development also opens the possibility Holland could participate in Sony Pictures’ plans to exploit other characters within the Spider-Man comics canon, including the Venom franchise with Tom Hardy, and possibly even the Oscar-winning animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse franchise.
But without Holland appearing in future movies from Disney’s Marvel Studios, it’s unclear how much this iteration of the character could stick around long term.