Disney vs. Sony: How The SPIDER-MAN Deal Went Sour

Both studios think they can do well without the other. But can they?

It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Spider-Man news. First, word got out that negotiations between Marvel Studios and Sony failed and their partnership to produce Spider-Man movies was over. Then there were counter-rumblings which claimed negotiations were ongoing. Sources were conflicted on whether the dispute was over profit sharing or producer credits. And then Sony came out with an official statement, pinning the decision to end the deal entirely on Disney.

The details of this story have varied widely depending on who you ask. The reasons why the negotiations are so difficult, the demands of the negotiating parties, and the plans of each studio moving forward have been either unclear or unverified. But not everything’s a mystery. The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit has written a pretty comprehensive breakdown of how the Spider-Man agreement collapsed, filled with quotes, inside baseball, and everything. You should definitely read it.

The most eye-opening passages of Kit’s breakdown are the ones that elucidate just how different a climate it was when the joint Spider-Man deal originally came to be. ““You have to remember, Marvel wasn’t in the same place as it was now. There was a still a question of how far could this ‘superhero thing’ go,” said one of Kit’s sources. 

Back when Sony and Marvel agreed to work together, their foundation wasn’t as strong as it is today. Now, Marvel Studios releases billion-dollar grossing films on a biannual basis, and Sony has won an Oscar with one of their Spider-Man films. This has lead to some swelling heads in both studios top offices. Sony Chairman Tom Rothman believes his studio has learned enough from Kevin Feige, and had enough success on their own with Venom and Into The Spider-Verse, that they can return to managing their IP on their own. Disney believes the Spider-Man IP isn’t as valuable when they can focus on so many other box office proven superheroes, especially their newly acquired X-Men.

So as a combination of both studios believing their partnership to be not all that valuable, yet still expecting a sizable stake in any renewed agreement, of course things couldn’t work out. To fans, and plenty of industry experts though, it’s obvious that both studios should reach a compromise. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, for better or worse, has been tied to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since his inception. Removing that aspect of the character is tantamount to a full-on reboot. Not to mention the sweeping changes to this series’ creative team if a deal isn’t reached. Contrary to previous reports, Jon Watts is not signed on to make more Spider-Man films, and aside from Tom Holland, it’s unclear which members of the cast have contracts with Marvel or with Sony. Holland himself is still signed for two more films though.

So goes things with the Disney/Marvel – Sony dispute. Although Sony asserted that negotiations failed in their latest official statement, there’s still the possibility that the companies will reopen negotiations if they sense a major sea change. But with the egos involved, they could just easily stop talking to each other. A long-term studio collaboration like this is unprecedented, anything can happen, really.