Editor’s Note: This article includes some spoilers from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Just when it finally seemed like Spider-Man was ready to fill Tony Stark’s iron shoes and be the leader of the Avengers, the collapse of a movie-studio deal means that the webslinger is likely on his own again, out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Deadline reports, Sony and Disney couldn’t come to an agreement about financing future installments of the movies starring Tom Holland as the friendly neighborhood superhero, meaning Marvel Studios and its president, Kevin Feige, will no longer be involved in the films.
According to the report, which was also backed up by BuzzFeed, Disney wanted a “50/50 co-financing arrangement” on the upcoming Spider-Man movies, which are currently controlled by Sony thanks to a licensing deal struck back in 2015. “Sony just simply didn’t want to share its biggest franchise,” Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “Sony proposed keeping the arrangement going under the current terms where Marvel receives in the range of 5% of first dollar gross, sources said. Disney refused.”
The “first dollar gross” deal means that Sony would basically give Marvel 5% of the money it raked in on the movies’ first days at the box office. For Spider-Man: Far From Home, that would have totaled $1.96 million of the film’s $39.2 million opening-day haul. As of now, Far From Home has made over $1.1 billion worldwide, making it Sony’s highest-earning film ever, and it will be re-released with extra footage on Aug. 29.
Sony has yet to confirm the details of the split, except to say that Feige was definitely out of the picture. “Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise,” Sony Pictures tweeted. “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. 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.”
The deal between the studios, which came at a low point for Sony following a massive data hack and a 23% decline in box-office returns, had its benefits for both parties. Sony would finance the movies, allowing it to retain the film rights to Spider-Man while getting the creative talents of Feige and his Marvel team to reboot the character after the diminishing returns of the Andrew Garfield iteration. Disney, meanwhile, got to add Marvel’s most beloved superhero to its world-dominating movie stable, starting with Captain America: Civil War, and reap the benefits of Spidey merchandising, which it still controls.
How Sony’s Spider-Man Could Branch Off Without Disney
Now it appears that both sides decided they simply didn’t need each other anymore, at least not under those financial terms. As of now, Sony still has Holland and director Jon Watts booked for two more standalone Spidey films, and they could potentially have Holland star opposite Tom Hardy’s Venom, Spider-Man’s most popular enemy, in an upcoming film. There’s also the potential of somehow integrating Holland with the characters of the animated hit Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and reviving Sony’s plans to focus on the Sinister Six—a collection of villains that includes Dr. Octopus, Electro, Mysterio, and Vulture—with its own film, a storyline set up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
How Disney Will Go On Without Spider-Man
Disney, meanwhile, looks as if it was already prepared to go on without Spider-Man. Far From Home was the final film in the third phase of the MCU and ended with the hero’s identity revealed to the world thanks to the villain Mysterio and J. Jonah Jameson, with J.K. Simmons reprising the newspaperman role that he played in Sony’s Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi trilogy. Aside from a post-credits scene involving Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, there were no other cliffhangers involving the Avengers or any other character from the MCU. That’s plenty of plot for Sony and Watts, if he stays on, to work with.
Marvel’s fourth phase of the MCU is already pretty packed with anticipated movies, including a standalone Black Widow film starring Scarlett Johansson, The Eternals with Angelina Jolie, the introduction of its first Asian-American superhero lead in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, plus the sequels Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder. In addition to that, there are the in-the-works follow-ups to Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, the latter two of which both topped $1 billion worldwide.
Thanks to its acquisition of Fox, Disney also now has the rights to other Marvel superheroes including the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Deadpool. The X-Men series is due for a reboot after debuting in 2000 and ending with a whimper in the widely panned Dark Phoenix, which grossed a disappointing $252.4 million this summer. A Fantastic Four reboot is also a no-brainer, as none of the franchise’s movies have topped $300 million or gotten positive reviews. Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool is still going strong, with the sequel earning $785 million last year, and its meta, fourth-wall-breaking take on the superhero genre could certainly fit in the MCU. After all, Marvel has already shown its willingness to veer into comedy with Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok and whatever sensibilities he brings to its 2021 sequel, which will star Natalie Portman as a female version of Thor alongside Tessa Thompson.
Disney and Marvel have yet to comment on these reports, and there’s always a chance that the huge fan backlash, most of it aimed at Sony, will bring both sides back to the negotiating table. If not, the Marvel and Spider-Man faithful will just have to hold out hope that split isn’t the first sign that both franchises are doomed to disintegrate into dust.
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