Sony-Disney spat threatens Spider-Man’s place in Marvel Universe

Actors (from left) Tom Holland, Jacob Batalon, Zendaya and Jake Gyllenhaal pose with director Jon Watts pose at a London photocall for ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’. (AFP pic)

LOS ANGELES: A dispute between Walt Disney Co and Sony Corp threatens to end their co-production of “Spider-Man” films, according to people familiar with the situation, putting the future of one of Marvel’s most beloved characters up in the air.

The two sides haven’t been able to agree on new terms for their partnership, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Talks are ongoing, one of the people said.

Sony holds the film rights to the popular Marvel character, even though Disney acquired Marvel Studios for US$4 billion in 2009.

A falling-out between two of Hollywood’s biggest studios would mean Marvel President Kevin Feige won’t be lending his touch to future Spider-Man films, and the character won’t appear in Disney’s Marvel films – a series dubbed the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, that’s generated more than US$22.5 billion globally.

Disney has been requesting a 50% share of profits in the films going forward.

Sony wanted to keep the current arrangement, in which Disney gets a 5% share of box-office revenue, according to the Deadline website, which reported earlier on the dispute.

Representatives of Disney and Sony didn’t return calls seeking comment.

The two Hollywood giants agreed in 2015 to work together on films featuring the web-slinging superhero after several of Sony’s Spider-Man films underperformed.

The first feature in their collaboration, 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” captured US$880 million in ticket sales worldwide, the best performance of the franchise up until then.

A follow-up, this year’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” grossed US$1.1 billion, a record for the series and for Sony.

Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, also was featured in MCU films such as this year’s “Avengers: Endgame,” the highest-grossing film of all time.