Thoughts on the Sony-Disney Spider-Man Tug of War

When news regarding Sony and Disney failing to agree on sharing the Spider-Man franchise going forward, my heart broke. Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man proved to be a great fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it seemed like Marvel Studios had big plans for the character. Alas, all we can do is accept the situation as it is.

As expected when a beloved franchise changes, this news caused many Marvel and Spider-Man fans to react negatively. Also expected – this development was pretty divisive, with some siding with Sony as they saw Disney as a greedy corporation aiming to monopolize the film industry, while others saw Sony putting an end to what can be perceived as a “good thing”. So I’d like to use my time this week to share my thoughts on the whole matter.

Defending Disney’s Position

The first thing I want to tackle is what Disney’s actual offer is, because I’ve been seeing a lot of negative reactions to what is being misconstrued as Disney asking for more money – 50% of the profits vs the 5% (on first dollar gross) that they’ve been getting previously. Before we move further, please note that I’m getting all of my information regarding this topic from Deadline, who was the first to report on this.

Disney’s actual offer was a 50/50 split on finances – this means they will shoulder half of the cost of producing not just Spider-Man films, but the Spider-Man spin-off movies as well. So we’re not looking at 5% being increased to 50% here; we’re actually going from 100% production cost shouldered by Sony and Disney getting 5% of their earnings (first dollar gross), to the two companies equally sharing both cost and profit.

Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige (left) and Sony Pictures’ Tom Rothman (right). Image from Deadline.

With the previous arrangement, Disney stands to earn their 5% regardless of whether the Spider-Man films bomb. With the new proposal, Disney will share the loss if the worst happens and Spider-Man films under this arrangement become box office failures. This also allows Sony to produce more Spider-Man and spin-off films as they won’t be spending as much money in making one.

Is that 50/50 split all that bad? Yes, if you only focus on how much money Sony could be making off of the Spider-Man properties. And since Marvel’s involvement, Spider-Man movies have been making a lot of money, with Far From Home and Homecoming ranking 1st and 3rd in terms of worldwide box office gross. But the proposed deal is so much more than that.

How much money each of the Spider-Man films (Venom not included) made in terms of box office grosses, according to Box Office Mojo.

Is Spider-Man in good hands with Sony?

This question is why I’m siding more with Disney than Sony on this conflict, because I really don’t trust Sony to make the right decisions when it comes to the future of the Spider-Man franchise simply because of the track record of both companies. One may be quick to point out that Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films were instrumental in popularizing the superhero film genre (along with Fox’s X-Men and the original Blade trilogy).

But please don’t forget what happened to Spider-Man 3, the film that earned the most money in the franchise up until Far From Home, which was also the film that ended Raimi’s run (he left because he did not think he could meet Sony’s planned release date for Spider-Man 4). Please don’t forget how lackluster the reboot Amazing Spider-Man and it’s sequel was, due to how much Sony wanted to recreate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And despite its box office success, please don’t forget that Venom was merely an average (a score of 35 at Metacritic and 29% at Rotten Tomatoes) film.

Also, with Kevin Feige no longer involved, the production of further Spider-Man movies will solely be in Amy Pascal’s (the producer of the Amazing Spider-Man films) and Tom Rothman’s (the guy who was overseeing the production of Daredevil, Tim Story’s Fantastic Four films, and the X-Men films prior to First Class). They don’t exactly have the best resumes when it comes to producing superhero films, unlike Feige’s record breaking success.

“Don’t Do That. Don’t Give Me Hope”

Regardless of who I’m siding with, I don’t want to think that this is all she wrote for the Spider-Man franchise. After all, did we ever think that Disney would hire James Gunn back and have him direct the third Guardians of the Galaxy film? I am still hoping, but not expecting, for Sony and Disney to go back to the negotiating table. Until Sony actually releases a Spider-Man film on their own again, there’s always hope.

Can Sony Succeed Without Marvel’s Help?

I’m not going to say that they won’t. Maybe they’ve truly learned from Kevin Feige, and they now have a better idea of what does and does not work for a superhero character. Or maybe they haven’t learned anything, and the next thing we’re going to see is another franchise ending film, followed by a reboot of the franchise five years later so Sony can keep the rights to the franchise. I don’t know, and no one does until it happens.

What I do know is, despite me preferring for Spider-Man to stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all I can do is keep an open mind. If Sony’s next Spider-Man film is good, I’m going to go see it and it’s sequels. If not, I’m simply not going to support them.

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