GRAPHICS BY DEVYN KELLY
BY ANA-SOFIA MUÑOZ
It looks like both Disney and Sony will soon have even less spidey-sense than they have common sense.
That is to say, if they are unable to agree on sharing the profits of the popular Spider-Man film franchise.
Following the release of this summer’s Spider-Man: Far From Home on June 26, Disney’s contract with Sony granting them the rights to the Spider-Man character and film franchise had reached its end. Their contract had already been previously extended since its original limit to featuring Spider-Man in only one Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie and one solo film. However, now that the two companies have failed to agree on financing future Spider-Man films and splitting the profits, the beloved character’s future is at stake. Fans are directing their blame at Sony, despite the fact that Disney is also largely at fault for the conflict, if not more so.
Simply put, Disney and Sony have shared the rights to Spider-Man since their agreement in 2015, which allowed Marvel Studios to create their own version of the character. As stated in the terms of their contract, Disney has been able to put Spider-Man in any MCU films they pleased as long as they produced solo movies for the character every two years. Sony covered all production and marketing costs for solo films, so it was only fair that they received all of the revenue for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Disney, however, did not feel the same way.
Although Disney receives all of its profit from Spider-Man merchandise, which is no small gain, considering the character’s extensive fanbase, the company decided that they wanted to earn revenue from the films as well. According to recent reports, Disney requested to profit 50% of future Spider-Man films, on the condition that they would also finance the same percentage of production costs. Sony sensibly turned down the offer, aware that the vast popularity of Spider-Man is difficult to attain, and Disney already has ownership of several major franchises.
Unfortunately, until the companies can come to an agreement, Spider-Man may no longer be featured in any future Marvel movies or alongside any other MCU characters. Seeing as previous events in the MCU have played a major role in the current Spider-Man’s storyline, it will be difficult for Sony to produce the character’s next two scheduled solo films without including crucial details from other Marvel films. Disappointed fans have already begun pointing a finger at Sony, even going as far as starting a boycott.
While Sony appears to be the company refusing to comply with a seemingly reasonable request from Disney, the conflict is much more complex than it may appear on the surface.
Within past years, Disney has rapidly monopolized the entertainment industry. Currently, they own (either wholly or through partial stakes and holdings) ABC, Marvel, Touchstone Pictures, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Hollywood Records, Core Publishing, Vice Media, A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime, among several others. Additionally, in March of this year, Disney purchased 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion during one of the biggest media mergers in history. With the way things are progressing, the number of companies not affiliated with Disney will only continue to decrease. As this progresses, smaller corporations will have to fight to maintain their independence.
Evidently, Disney is in no shortage of sources of profit. Their attempt to take away revenue from Sony—one of the few major entertainment companies that has not yet been overtaken by Disney—is a prime example of corporate greed. Disney has no need for increased ownership over the Spider-Man franchise, but has obviously realized just how much money and media attention the Spider-Man solo films are receiving. Undoubtedly, Sony pales in comparison to the media conglomerate, and must take advantage of outstanding sources of income such as the Spider-Man franchise. It is selfish of Disney, being the immense corporation that it is, to expect Sony to give up such a large percentage of their revenue.
In short, a boycott against Sony is needless. The company is simply attempting to maintain its place as a competitor in the media industry. Needless to say, there is still a possibility that Sony may accept a more reasonable offer from Disney.
Until then, fans can only cling to hope much like their favorite web-slinging character clings to walls.