Sony and Marvel Play Nice Over Spider-Man Film Rights

Well who saw this coming? The big news reverberating throughout the online geek community this week is that Spider-Man will be returning home. 

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio who owns the film rights to the character, has a well-publicized problem with getting the character to work on the screen. Each successive Spider-Man film since Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (which came out all the way back in 2004) has been losing money. And the last two Amazing Spider-Man films have been poorly received by both audiences and critics. There was some hullabaloo a while back that Sony wanted to spin off side characters like Black Cat, Venom, and the Sinister Six into separate films, but no one really saw that coming to fruition after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 bombed at the box office.

In the wake of their Spidey problem, Sony worked out a deal to allow old webhead to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe and share the screen with Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk. Marvel will develop and produce a new Spider-Man film under its own Banner (pun intended) to be released in 2017 while the rights to the character will remain with Sony.

This is huge news any way you slice it. But what makes it completely stunning, absolutely unprecedented, is that NEITHER STUDIO WILL PROFIT FROM THE DEAL. Let me repeat that in case you slipped into a catatonic state from reading such an unlikely sentence. Marvel will pay no money to Sony to use Spider-Man in their films. At the same time, Marvel will make no money off any future Spider-Man films that Sony produces. The only money either will make is profit from any film they produce on their own.

To my knowledge, a partnership of this ilk has never existed between two giant studios. One where both parties agree to share a valuable property and not charge each other for the privilege. It’s almost as if they’re saying “there’s plenty of money to go around, so let’s not burden the deal with such talk.” Which I don’t believe has ever been said by any corporation in the history of the world.

Honestly, what people forget is that Hollywood is a people-oriented business. And when you have a guy like Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios head honcho) at the head of the deal, a guy who is universally well-liked and who plays well with just about everyone, that can change the calculation. Feige has a reputation for playing fair and treating everyone well. That’s almost certainly the only reason this deal happened.

So being nice can actually really pay off in a big way. Who would've thought?*

* Me.

Greg Kanaan

The [Legal] Artist, Boston, MA, USA