It’s opening weekend for Spider-Man: Homecoming
. Ben Fritz takes a look
at what it took to get this latest – and quite different – installment made:
The Spider-Man franchise has had dual masters since 1999, when Sony bought big-screen rights to the character from Marvel, then an independent company. The deal gave the comic-book publisher 5% of film revenue and called for the two companies to split revenue from related Spider-Man merchandise.
The first movie Sony made under the arrangement, 2002’s “Spider-Man,” was a massive hit, grossing $822 million world-wide, as were the 2004 and 2007 sequels. But ticket sales declined for a poorly received 2012 reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and its sequel, which grossed a weak $709 million in 2014.
In a 2011 renegotiation designed to resolve years of behind-the-scenes legal disputes and provide Sony with much-needed cash, the Japanese company gave up its share of merchandise rights while Marvel, Disney-owned by that time, agreed to forgo its 5% of film revenue and make a one-time payment of $175 million and pay up to $35 million for each future film.
The renegotiation seems like a smart move. But it’s also pretty crazy – the WSJ headline here is absolutely true: Sony is making a movie that will allow Disney to sell toys. And both sides are – and should be! – happy with that.
But the next move was key:
As Sony executives struggled with their next move for the character after “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Marvel lobbied to take back creative control. A team led by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige that made the hits “Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” figured they could make a better movie, generating higher box-office and toy sales. Sony agreed in 2015, a little more than two months after a huge cyberhack revealed that talks were ongoing and after much internal debate, according to current and former employees.
No money changed hands under the deal. The only tweak to the prior arrangement was that in exchange for its producing services, Marvel gets to reduce the $35 million it would owe on “Homecoming” if the movie grosses more than $750 million, said people with knowledge of the arrangement.
Which it absolutely will given that it’s actually good
– undoubtedly thanks to Feige and team. Another savvy move by Disney.
Still some weirdness ahead, potentially:
The studio is also planning to take advantage of “Homecoming” by launching its own related but distinct cinematic universe using its rights to more than 900 characters who have appeared in Spider-Man comics. In addition to an animated Spider-Man feature, it is working on “Venom,” an anti-hero who will be played by Tom Hardy, for release next year and “Black Cat and Sable,” about a pair of super-heroines.
The way this reads is that Feige/Marvel won’t be helping with these. Which is worrisome, to say the least. And also odd since other comments made by Feige
seem to indicate
that Spider-Man (and presumably his larger universe) will be a key part of kicking off the next
Marvel cinematic universe broader story arc.
Regardless, I just hope
the inevitable success of this new Spider-Man kicks Fox in the ass to also team up with Marvel for X-Men. Yes, Logan
– Hugh Jackman’s swan song – was fantastic
. But X-Men: Apocalypse
was not good
. The core films are heading in the wrong direction. It could be time for the two universes to collide
in the 2020s…