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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Remain Calm: Spidey-Feige-Sony-Disney Drama Not Likely Over

by Ray Keating
August 21, 2019

Call me a crazy optimist, but I  don’t think Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will be exiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite news that Spidey’s out and the Internet is freakin’ out. 

This entire Sony-Disney battle looks like a tough negotiation that somebody decided to take public to gain an advantage. Considering assorted reports, the story goes something along the following lines. Sony achieved great success with the two Holland movies – Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home – that came after a deal between the two companies allowed Marvel’s Kevin Feige (the MCU guru) to produce both movies. (That Marvel-Sony deal came after Sony was disappointed with the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films.) As for Marvel, Spider-Man entered and is slated for an important role in the MCU. Here was a win-win deal in Hollywood.

But with two more Spider-Man movies supposedly on the way via Sony and more MCU films with Spidey coming, a new deal between the companies was sought. Given that the current deal gives Disney a rather modest 5 percent of the first-dollar gross on Spider-Man movies, along with all merchandise sales (certainly not insignificant), it’s pretty clear that Disney/Marvel was pushing for the new deal. And Disney reportedly wanted a 50-50 split on financing, with Feige staying on in his consulting-producer role, according to Variety.

But as negotiations hit the rocks, Disney seems to have played the “Feige” card, with the company seemingly worried that Feige might be getting spread too thin with all of the movie and streaming projects he’s involved with for Disney.

Sony Pictures then went public with a response. Variety reported:

     In a rare public rebuke to Disney, Sony announced Tuesday night that it was “disappointed” over the decision, highlighting Disney’s refusal to allow Marvel President Kevin Feige to continue as a producer on the projects. It also praised Feige, who teamed with Amy Pascal on “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which became Sony’s most successful release earlier this week in terms of global box office.
     “Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise,” Sony said in a statement. “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 they do not own,” the statement continued. “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.”

I’m sure Disney will have something to say in response.

Looking at a negotiation like this, the typical question is: Who needs whom more? 

Yes, Feige played a key role in getting Sony’s live-action Spider-Man on track (or back on track as I have great appreciation for the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films). For good measure, Spidey being in the MCU clearly is a big plus for Sony. Of course, there’s no reason why Sony can’t take what Feige has done and run with it, telling some mighty Spidey tales, as basically said in the company’s statement. But that adds risk and uncertainty for a company that has an uneven track record with superhero, including Spider-Man, movies.

Meanwhile, the MCU certainly would survive – and yes, thrive – without Spider-Man. But the loss of that character would still be substantial and disruptive. Spider-Man exiting the MCU adds risk and uncertainty for Disney/Marvel, who already has seen the exit of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.

Nobody likes added risk and uncertainty in Hollywood, an industry drenching in risk and uncertainty.

And by the way, I seriously doubt that Feige’s work on Spider-Man is somehow going to lead to him feeling overworked and his creative output will suffer as a result.

In the end, it’s unclear who needs whom more. I suppose given the MCU track record of success, a case can be made that Sony needs Marvel/Feige more. But in reality, this, again, is a clear case where each company benefits enormously from a partnership. And for that reason, while it might be a rough road along the way, I expect Sony and Disney to arrive at an agreement that results in Spidey remaining in the MCU. So, try to stay calm while these two entertainment companies fight it out over superheroes.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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