Joseph Jammer Medina (Editor-in-Chief): Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Time’s up on the Sony and Marvel deal that permeated these past several years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Against all odds, Disney and Sony had crafted together an agreement that gave them shared custody of good ol’ Peter Parker — along with all his ancillary characters. This saw the rise of amazing films like Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.
But it is no longer — at least not as of this writing. Last we heard, Disney offered to do a 50/50 co-financing deal going forward, wherein they put in half the budget and reap half the rewards for Spider-Man films and Spider-Man universe films — meaning they would have controlling interest in the spin-off movies like Venom (or the movies going forward), thereby wresting control away from Sony. Sony, on the other hand, wanted to retain the status quo, wherein Disney gets 5% first-dollar gross on Spider-Man films in addition to merchandising rights. Sony rejected Disney’s offer, and Disney reportedly rejected Sony’s compromises.
So now we are left in a situation where it looks like Spider-Man is leaving the MCU altogether…so, guys…what are your thoughts? First of all, before we dive into the creative aspect and what the future holds, what do you think of these reported negotiations between the two titans?
James Burns (Interviewer/Contributor): My thoughts on the matter are this: Disney is building a massive Spider-Man attraction, Tom Holland’s Spidey has been set up as the replacement for Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, and fans want him in the MCU. There is no way Disney lets the negotiations end like this.
Stephon White (Contributor): No way this deal falls through. Poor Peter Parker was just rescued from The Decimation. Now this? Disney has got to get it together before it turns into the Titanic.
Joseph Jammer Medina: So what do you make of all this noise going on on the internet about these two deals between the two studios and their letting Sony walk away? Just a negotiation tactic by the House of Mouse?
James Burns: I think it’s a bullying tactic. On one hand, you have Disney doing all the heavy lifting and on the other, you have a smaller studio who owns the rights fair and square. Disney had to know Sony wasn’t going to go for 50/50! They could make their own movies — even flops — and still make more money than that. I get the impression that Disney was using scare tactics to get a better deal and Sony decided to take it public to embarrass them. Not sure if it’s working, though.
Stephon White: Disney is flexing power. In my opinion, Sony has been making Superhero films since when Disney was still all Princesses and Tiaras. Let’s not pretend Sam Raimi’s franchise wasn’t awesome pre-Spider-Man 3. Now Sony has not one but two well-performing films under their belt: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Venom. Disney needs to get it together before Sony gives us the Spider-Man and Venom film Raimi’s third film in the franchise should have been.
Joseph Jammer Medina: Well, one thing that’s certainly working for them is public perception. I agree with you on that 50/50 deal. That isn’t worth accepting by any respecting studio. They hold the film rights to Spider-Man and therefore should be entitled to more than 50/50. As it stands, even their least successful Spider-Man film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, grossed more than $700 million worldwide. Under that 50/50 deal, the next Spidey flick would need to make $1.4 billion in order to give them the same profits. So it would need to be the most successful film in order to match their least successful film in terms of profits. Of course, we’re not taking into account budget, theatrical cut, advertising, etc., but at its most basic, it still holds true, as both scenarios will have similar expenses.
James Burns: Let’s look at it through Disney’s lens as well: They are a powerhouse who dominates a huge portion of the box office right now. They also hold the popularity card. They figure they don’t need Sony but Sony needs them. I think they flexed their muscles, expecting Sony to rebuttal, but Sony decided to take their ball and go home. Was this the best move for Sony?
Stephon White: You’re right. Disney has done what no other franchise has accomplished and created a massively interconnected universe that is a fan boys wet dream. That being said, I solidly feel that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was pure uncompromised comic book fun. I have never seen a film like that. Meanwhile, I can compare and contrast the superhero films both Warner Bros and Disney have made all day.
Joseph Jammer Medina: You’re right. Sony has proven they can make the right move. As a result, it’s one of those situations where it’s hard to tell if this really was a bad move for them. So long as their Spider-Man efforts continue to make north of $700 million, they’ll be doing better than if they went with that deal. Sure, long-term faith can wane, but that’s assuming they make terrible films. Like many studios, they’re hoping for the best. With Venom doing solid numbers and Spider-Verse getting all the accolades, they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves — at least well enough to turn done Disney. Financially-speaking, unless confidence in them really starts to nosedive, I think they’ll be in okay shape. If they make good movies, they’ll be in great shape.
Cam Clark (News Staff): Hmmm, I find it hard to gauge how this is going to go because I feel like there are jigsaw pieces missing from this puzzle. Tell me this would happen a few months ago and I’d simply have thought Sony were doing what I predicted they would. They are using the MCU is a platform to launch a counter universe that average fans won’t know the difference between. That way they do what they want and ride the coattails of the MCU for as long as they can.
However, to answer Jammer’s question and if the reports are to be believed, then (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I think I have to side with Sony on this one.
I know Marvel are also offering to halve the financial outlay, but this still means Sony just writing the odd check and counting the profits. Less profits than they were getting in the current deal. Yes, the MCU will survive without Spider-Man, we know this already. Can Spider-Man carry on outside of the MCU with the same success rate? That remains to be seen.
As a fan, I totally hate the idea of we fans not getting the natural conclusions to the arcs set in place for this Peter Parker. However, movies are a business and Sony HAVE to keep their investors happy. Would they accept this kind of deal? Tricky situation.
Joseph Jammer Medina: So, on that note, I have to say, I don’t like the way Disney is handling this. Of course, for all we know, this could just be a bullying tactic, and they could ultimately return to the negotiation table (though I don’t know why they would) to sign some sort of deal. But as much as we love the movies Disney and Marvel Studios have put out, this really does seem to put into perspective that they care as little about the creative process as Sony does. The movies are just a means to an end to make more money. The fact that they seem to be holding fast to a preposterous 50/50 deal really just proves how little they care about fans. At least that’s how I read this move. Granted, for all we know, there were some other compromises offered from both ends, but as of right now, that 50/50 deal is all the information we have to go off of (though a recent THR piece says Disney wanted at least 30%, so that’s something extra). That and another interesting quote from a supposed insider at Sony, who said that the negotiations are over a producer credit. I honestly don’t know what to make of that.
Stephon White: Sony has every right to pack up their toys and go home. Disney’s deal is preposterous in every aspect. Their Avengers future lineup seems to be contingent on having these fan-favorite characters since Downey and Evans have exited. Why would Disney throw a wrench in the future of their own franchise? Maybe it’s pure fanboy nostalgia. But I remember seeing Spider-Man in theaters. This was probably the first superhero movie released in the wake of 9/11. It was pure escapism in the best way possible. Sony, do your thing.
James Burns: I’m not completely on Sony’s side on this. Yes, the 50/50 deal is ridiculous, but as Cam stated, Disney may have offered to share the financial load. We also don’t have all the information to jump to conclusions on either side. All I know is, as a fan of Spider-Man, I’d much rather him be handled by Disney. There’s no question that Sony is subpar in its execution of the characters outside of Spider-Verse. I’ll purpose this question to the table: Was this premeditated on Sony’s end? Did they always plan to take the money and run?
Joseph Jammer Medina: To be clear, the offer was a 50/50 co-financing deal. Disney would be sharing the financial burden with Sony. But that doesn’t really change my perspective on it at all, because that’s still a massive 50/50 split, compared to a 5% first-dollar gross cut. Regardless of the co-financing aspect, it doesn’t change my perspective on it, because they are still making out on a character they don’t own film rights for.
As far as your question regarding this being premeditated by Sony, I’ll, first of all, say no. Their proposal of retaining the status quo proves that. They were happy and willing to share with Disney. Maybe not 50/50 share, but it sounds like they were even open to some compromises (though specifics on those weren’t given). There is really no evidence pointing at either company that this was all premeditated.
But your question has brought something else to light. What’s up with the fanaticism around Disney? Are we are ignoring their clear wrong-doing here? Why are we bending over backwards to villainize Sony here? Why are we trying to find ways to assume they’re the bad guy in every situation? Yes, without a doubt, they make better movies than Sony, especially in regards to Spider-Man, but have we stooped so low as to wanting one mammoth company to literally own EVERYTHING, uninhibited?
Seriously, WHY would anyone have signed that deal? No self-respecting executive would have signed it ever. And yet Sony is the bad guy. Sorry. I love Disney as much as the next guy, but people crapping on Sony for this just baffles me.
Cam: I think fans are being blinded to the business aspects of this because of their desires. Fans really don’t care about who makes money and when. They just want to see the best possible experience they can in an age where almost every whim has been met or bested.
I think that’s why fans are siding with Disney. not necessarily because Disney are positioning Sony as the bad guys, but because they just want to see Spider-Man fully in the MCU. They’d happily cheer at news that Sony had agreed to sell them the licence, even though that would be a daft business decision for Sony to make. I think it’s as simple as that.
Brandon Jones (Breaking Geek Radio: The Podcast Host): From a creative perspective, I’m kind of excited for Sony in a weird way. I think Venom was a complete turd and Into the Spider-Verse is whatever the exact opposite of that is. By some weird fluke, they were able to make a ton of money off of Venom and find critical praise with Into the Spider-Verse. It would be nice if they could find a way to harness that same creative team from Spider-Verse to make something with what could become the new normal.
Beyond that, I’ve always been fascinated with this deal. It doesn’t make sense to me that they would split the BO and merch the way they did, where Disney gets 100% of the merch and Sony gets the majority of the BO. Would it have been that hard to split everything down the middle, even if it meant that Disney would have to kick in some of the financing? It just seemed like a plan that was bound to run into these kinds of issues.
Joseph Jammer Medina: I think it all comes back to Sony owns the film rights and therefore should be entitled to at least the majority of revenue and profits for the film. In a way, they’re almost hiring Disney to take on a job, and that makes a lot of sense to me. As far as the merch goes, according to a recent report from THR, Sony had given away those rights to Marvel prior to the original Disney-Sony deal for $175 million, but additionally, there was some weird provision that had Marvel sending Sony a check every year for merchandise — like some $30 million a year, but it was also connected to how good the Kevin Feige-directed Spidey films did. The better the films did, the lower the royalty payment for Sony. It’s weird.
Jones: I don’t know that owning the rights sways me that much. They owned the rights for the Andrew Garfield movies and that didn’t do them much good. With the exception of Spider-Verse, I feel like Sony is generally creatively bankrupt. MIB: International, the last James Bond film, the Amazing Spider-Man, to name a few. Having rights is one thing, but unless they can actually do something people like, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. I’m genuinely curious what Lord and Miller could do with a full slate of live-action Spider-Man characters. I have a hard time believing Sony isn’t on the phone with them right now.
The worst part about this deal falling through is that whole slate of terrible Spider-Man movies we were dreading, we’ll likely get. Kraven the Hunter, Silver and Black, Morbius is already filming, the Sinister Six movie Amazing Spider-Man 2 tried to ram down our throats. Ugh…
Joseph Jammer Medina: We can agree on one thing: we’d both be surprised if they weren’t on the phone with Lord and Miller right now. Is it too late to move their TV plans over to the live-action film front? Getting them involved would be an easy way to get me more interested in seeing a Sony-led live-action Spider-Man movie.
Jones: LOL. Just a dump truck full of cash backed up to their house. I agree, I’d be way more interested if they said Lord and Miller were heading up this effort, because I swear to glob, if I forking hear Avi Arad’s name in association with any of this shart, I will actually get upset. Are we swearing? If so, fork that noise. I get that his name was attached to Spider-Verse, but it had none of his crapiness oozing off of it.
Joseph Jammer Medina: Well, even if we all don’t quite agree on what concessions each studio should have made on the bargaining table, I think we all think this sucks for fans. Spider-Man is Sony’s most profitable character and is an integral part of the MCU.
Jones: Not only is he their most profitable character, I believe this was their most profitable movie ever (surpassing the previous record holder, Skyfall) and what sucks for fans is that both companies have to know this movie wouldn’t have made the bank it did without the MCU/post Endgame bump. That has to be having a huge impact on negotiations.
Joseph Jammer Medina: Yup, and by not hashing out a deal, both studios are hanging us fans out to dry, so we can only help that someone budges sooner or later. Until that happens, we’ll continue to have these debates behind (or perhaps in front of) closed doors.
What do all of you think of this whole fiasco surrounding Disney and Sony? Are you much less sympathetic toward Sony than I am…or do you also think Disney is asking way too much? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!
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