Spider-Man: tangled up in company webs

Spider-Man illustrated by Jaylynn Glaus

Spider-Man illustrated by Jaylynn Glaus

You may have heard of a few little companies named Disney, Marvel and Sony. You may also be confused as to what their tangled relationship means for a well known red-spandex wearing hero named Spider-Man.

A short while ago, Spider-Man’s future in film was thrown up in the air after Sony’s refusal to comply with Disney’s 50/50 co-financing request.

How did it ever come to this, where a beloved character is used as a bargaining chip in the hazardous business of Hollywood?

Let's take a trip into superhero history, to see how Spider-Man has become a pawn in the billion dollar industry… 

Stan Lee wrote the first Spider-Man comic in 1962 and the character became quite popular with readers. But over the decades Marvel’s failed cinematic ventures, questionable management, and slumping sales didn’t predict a bright future for the company.

In 1996, Marvel filed for bankruptcy and cinematic rights to characters were sold off due to the company’s need for cash.

Marvel regained the rights to Spider-Man in 1999 after putting the character up for sale in 1985, then sold Spider-Man film rights to Sony Pictures.

In 2009, the Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Obtaining Marvel made Disney partners with Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

In 2015, Sony made a deal with Marvel Studios, which allowed the character to appear in films produced by either studio.

Marvel’s 1999 decision to sell Spider-Man’s film rights to Sony is the main reason for the current sticky situation.

According to CNBC, Disney proposed the 50-50 co-financing deal to Sony in August 2019. 

Disney understandably wanted to make more of a profit off of Spider-Man, as they were previously making just five percent of the first dollar gross on Spider-Man films. Though they have made money off of Spider-Man merchandising, after buying those rights from Sony in 2011.

Sony’s reasoning for resisting new deals with Disney is also understandable, as “Spider-Man: Far From Home” earned Sony it’s biggest global profit yet. 

The two companies ended negotiations in August after failing to strike a deal and it seemed that Spider-Man would not be returning to the MCU.

In September, it was a relief for many fans to hear that Disney and Sony had actually reached an agreement, one that will keep Spider-Man in the MCU a little while longer.

Tom Holland’s character will continue to appear in MCU films while “Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse,” Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said.

Holland may even have helped saved the future of Spider-Man, as Disney CEO Bob Iger said Holland personally called him asking Iger to fix the Sony deal.

"It was clear that he cared so much, and actually, we care a lot about him," Iger said. "So, after I got off the phone with him, I made a couple of phone calls to our team at Disney Studios, and then I decided to call the head of Sony,” Iger told Jimmy Kimmel. 

The future of Spider-Man is still uncertain, as Sony and Disney’s relationship hangs by a fragile thread. But fans can breathe a small sigh of relief as “Spider-Man: Homecoming 3” is set to appear in theaters Aug. 2021.

CultureSarah Brown