Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have been sent reeling after the recent news that Spider-Man will no longer be a part of the MCU. The announcement came as a shock, considering that Spider-Man is a beloved character and icon dating back to the origin of the Marvel Comics. So why is Spider-Man getting kicked out of the MCU? It’s a complicated answer about the complicated relationship between the entertainment empires of Disney, Marvel and Sony.
Marvel originally created Spider-Man, a wildly popular character that helped shape the world of comics and superheroes, back in 1962. However, in the 90s, Marvel sold many of its characters to other studios due to bankruptcy. Sony bought the film rights to Spider-Man and has kept them ever since. Shortly after the MCU kicked off with “Iron Man” in 2008, Disney bought the rights to Marvel. Slowly, the Avengers were assembled into the franchise, but some characters were left out, including Spider-Man, who plays a key role on the superhero team in the comics. Sony did create several Spider-Man films which saw varying success in the early 2000s starring Tobey Maguire, and rebooted the franchise later starring Andrew Garfield.
In 2015, Sony struck a deal with Disney, allowing Spider-Man to enter the MCU with five films starring Tom Holland as the famous web slinger. Although Kevin Feige produced these movies, Sony reaped the profits. Meanwhile, Disney had full control over three other films with Spider-Man appearances, including “Captain America: Civil War” and the recent “Avengers: Endgame.” With this deal, Marvel received five percent of all first-dollar and all merchandising profits on the Sony produced films. Likewise, Sony received a little profit from the Disney-produced films. When the five-film contract ended with “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” Disney and Sony met to negotiate a new contract.
This deal went south when Disney set high demands. They wanted to share the rights to Spider-Man and split all profits 50/50. Disney argued that the stand-alone movies were successful largely due to Feige’s influence. Sony felt this deal was unfair, since they funded the production of the films and had proven their success with Spider-Man in the past without Feige’s help, and advocated to leave the original deal in place. Disney was unwilling to budge on their demands and an agreement could not be reached. Sony walked away with Spider-Man and Disney withdrew Feige from working on Sony’s projects.
Fans of the MCU were quick to blame Sony for not accepting Disney’s offer. Many people proposed boycotting Sony’s products and films on Twitter until a deal could be reached. Other fans blamed Disney’s greed for the bad breakup. Sharing the Spider-Man profits would be a huge blow to Sony, considering they spent millions financing the films for Disney to slap their name on it and take a part of the cut. Sony relies heavily on the revenue of the Spider-Man films, as they don’t have ownership of multiple franchises like Disney — and the profits from Spider-Man merchandise go to Disney as well.
Sony also recently released a statement implying Disney is to blame, saying that “much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise. 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. 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 [Intellectual Property] 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.” Disney has not made any official comments yet.