Image Credit: Sony & Marvel (Image from “Spider-Man: Far From Home”)
Spider-fans should be happy to learn that their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will remain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“M.C.U.”) for a third film in the “Spider-Man Homecoming” series, as well as a future Marvel Studios film.
Last month, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios announced that they could not reach an agreement regarding the terms of their partnership in the Spider-Man film franchise. Without reaching an agreement, it seemed inevitable that Spider-Man would no longer remain part of the M.C.U. In fact, the studios publicly parted ways upon the assumption that no financial agreement could be reached.
The late Stan Lee created Spider-Man, including the superhero in his Marvel Comics, in 1962. In the late 1990s, Marvel Entertainment filed for bankruptcy. Marvel’s unstable financial situation afforded Sony the opportunity to purchase the movie rights to Spider-Man, long before Disney purchased Marvel Comics and all of its intellectual property in 2009. Owning the movie rights to the character, Sony released two previous Spider-Man series, first starring Tobey Maguire and then Andrew Garfield.
In 2015, Disney-owned Marvel and Sony announced a groundbreaking intra-studio partnership that led to the production of two box-office hits, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home. More importantly, however, this partnership allowed Marvel to incorporate Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the M.C.U. as part of its Avengers series. This was perhaps the first time that a studio essentially loaned out one of its top characters to a rival studio. This arrangement benefited both studios tremendously, both creatively and financially.
Over the summer, the studios revisited their expiring agreement, and Disney pushed for better financial terms from Sony. The original agreement provided that Disney receive a small percentage of the box office revenue in return for lending the creative assistance of Marvel’s President and star producer, Kevin Feige, in the Holland Spider-Man movies. Sony shouldered the production costs of the movies. Further complicating matters is the fact that Marvel (and thus, Disney) owns the rights to Spider-Man merchandising. Negotiations broke down, and news outlets reported Spider-Man’s split from the M.C.U.
Despite reports of the split, negotiations continued. And lucky for Marvel fans, the studios announced this week that Spider-Man will remain in the M.C.U. for at least a third movie in Spider-Man’s most recent “Homecoming” series. In addition, the studios agreed on at least one more Spider-Man appearance in a future Marvel movie (likely, a future Avengers movie). Spider-fans rejoiced, and Marvel happily welcomed Holland’s Spider-Man back home to the M.C.U.
Liz Costello, University at Buffalo School of Law, Class of 2020. Liz is the Treasurer of the Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Law Society, an Articles Editor of the Buffalo Law Review, and an anticipated associate at Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC. Having grown up in Los Angeles with an entertainment attorney mother, Liz is especially interested in the legal issues surrounding music, film, television, and sports. Her favorite activities include going to local live music and sporting events.