Spider-Man appears to have taken his last swing through Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Kevin Feige, the president of Disney-owned Marvel Studios, will no longer produce the “Spider-Man” movies released by rival studio Sony Pictures after the two companies failed to come to a new agreement, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.
Disney, which had a major hand in producing megahits “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and its recent sequel “Far From Home,” wanted to take a 50% co-financing stake in future “Spider-Man” films, these people said. But Sony, which is riding high on the success of the Spider-Man movies, was unwilling to give up such a large portion of its most valuable franchise.
Another major factor in negotiations was the growing demands on Feige’s time, said people with knowledge of the situation.
Disney wants the highly successful producer to focus on the Marvel characters it owns, which recently expanded to include the “X-Men” characters. Disney acquired the “X-Men” rights as part of its purchase of 20th Century Fox. Feige also has been tasked with shepherding a significant lineup of original Marvel Studios shows for the company’s all-important streaming service Disney+, which is expected to launch Nov. 12 in a high-stakes gamble to take on Netflix.
Also on Feige’s plate: building the next phase of Marvel movies, including the long-anticipated “Black Widow” feature and a fourth “Thor” film. It’s unclear how, exactly, Spider-Man would have fit into the next round of Marvel Studios movies if the studios had been able to reach a deal.
Deadline first reported the severing of ties between Sony and Disney. Representatives for Disney and Marvel Studios declined to comment.
“We are disappointed but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer of our next live-action Spider-Man film,” Sony said in a statement. “We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him — including all their newly added Marvel properties — do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own. Kevin is terrific and we are grateful for his help and guidance and appreciate the path he has helped put us on, which we will continue.”
The collapse of discussions ends what was seen as a highly unusual pact between two Hollywood competitors. Disney in 2015 allowed Feige, one of the industry’s most successful movie producers, to retool its rival’s most important film franchise. In exchange, Disney was able to put the webslinger in its own series of superhero movies, including “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and this year’s “Avengers: Endgame.”
For Marvel fans and the two studios, the arrangement was good while it lasted.
The deal allowed Sony to retool its prized superhero at a time when the studio had run out of ideas for the Marvel property. Sony, which finances the Spider-Man movies, reaped the profits and kept its key piece of intellectual property alive.
Disney, for its part, was warm to the deal in part because the Burbank-based entertainment giant owns the lucrative merchandising rights for Spider-Man. Marvel also received a small percentage of the box-office receipts from the Spider-Man films.
The results were impressive. “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker, was a major success, grossing $880 million worldwide in 2017. This year’s follow-up, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” has taken in $1.11 billion.
However, Disney ultimately decided it didn’t make sense to have one of its most important filmmakers working for another studio if it couldn’t own a significant financial stake in the movies.
Sony, meanwhile, had found success on its own with “Venom,” the antihero movie starring Tom Hardy. Venom is one of the Spider-Man-related characters Sony owns, and the film was not made as a part of the larger superhero universe spearheaded by Disney. “Venom” grossed $856 million in box office receipts.
The Culver City studio, led by Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Tony Vinciquerra and motion picture group Chairman Tom Rothman, is also making a movie starring Jared Leto as Spider-Man character Morbius, which is planned for release next summer. Sony also scored with last year’s Oscar-winning animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
Sony executives, people familiar with the matter said, were confident they could continue the Spider-Man franchise, even without Feige. Holland is still on board for future movies, sources said.
Sony acquired the film rights for Spider-Man in 1999, and released the first movie, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, in 2002. Sony produced successful “Spider-Man” sequels in 2004 and 2007. Sony rebooted the property in 2012 with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The film and its 2014 sequel delivered diminishing returns at the box office.
Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4 billion, giving it access to a host of superheroes but not Spider-Man. Sony sold the Spider-Man merchandising rights to Disney in 2011.