Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Fans upset at the Spider-Man’s sudden departure from the MCU should direct their criticism at Disney, not Sony.
By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief
In mid-August, stunned Marvel fans were in an uproar after the sudden news that Spider-Man would no longer be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The deal between Disney and Sony Pictures to include the web slinger had fallen apart, and fans on social media expressed their outrage, mostly pointing the blame towards the latter company. However, fans need to look at the bigger picture and see that Disney is the guilty party.
Fans tried to pressure Sony to renegotiate a deal, and numerous change.org petitions sprung up demanding that Spider-Man be kept in the MCU. Although, if the terms of the deal are actually examined, it becomes clearer that Sony was in the right to push back, and Disney was ravenous for a larger profit. To see why, the deal and some history behind it must be explored.
In 1999, Sony purchased the film rights to Spider-Man and 900 related characters from Marvel, which had just come out of bankruptcy, for $7 million, according to Comic Book Resources. Between 2002 and 2014, five Spider-Man films were released, with varying degrees of success.
Sony intended to make their own cinematic universe with the “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, but after the mixed reception and low box office performance of the second movie in the franchise, the future looked unclear. After the 2014 Sony Pictures hack revealed that the company had talks with Disney to include the superhero in the highly successful MCU, Sony couldn’t ignore the pressure from fans and a deal was reached the following year.
According to Business Insider, the deal stipulated that Marvel would get up to 5 percent of the first-dollar gross (the money made on the film’s first day of release) and all of the merchandising rights, while Sony would take home the rest of the box office revenue. The deal lead to two highly successful Spider-Man films, the second of which would go on to earn more than $1 billion. The future looked bright, until Disney got extra greedy.
Disney wanted a 50-50 cofinancing stake in future movies, which would give the company an even bigger share of the profits, according to Deadline. Sony wanted to keep the deal as is, as there were no other terms to offset those losses. Neither side could agree on the terms and the deal fell through.
It is not Sony’s fault that Disney got even more hungry for money. The merchandising rights already gave the entertainment giant an extremely lucrative revenue stream. According to comicbook.com, Spider-Man products accumulated $1 billion in global retail sales in 2016 alone, so Disney was already raking in the dough before “Spider-Man: Homecoming” had even come out. To ask for even more is simply avaricious. It is going to be a bummer that characters in the MCU are essentially going to have to pretend that Spider-Man no longer exists, but Disney’s aggressive stance is to blame.
Besides, it is not like Sony is incapable of making a good Spider-Man movie or turning a profit. The stellar 2018 animated movie, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” is arguably better than either of the web crawler’s MCU films, and “Venom” — though receiving a negative reception from critics — managed to earn over $850 million.
Disney, on its part, is doing incredibly well financially. Just this year alone, Disney had four other films take in over $1 billion each. “Avengers: Endgame” surpassed “Avatar” to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, making nearly $2.8 billion. Not making a 50 percent return on a movie is not going to hurt the company in the slightest.
Sony is in the right to defend its property and ask for a fair deal. The House the Mouse built already has so many lucrative properties; it has little to lose when agreeing to more balanced terms.