Spider-Man is out of the MCU thanks to Sony/Disney standoff [Updated]

Deadline Hollywood reports that future blockbuster films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will likely be missing a key figure: Spider-Man. Apparently, Sony Pictures and Disney/Marvel have failed to reach new terms for the franchise acceptable to both parties. That means Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige will not be a producer on the two more Spider-Man movies reportedly in the works.

It’s kind of shocking news, given that this summer’s seemed to be setting up young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as a worthy successor to Tony Stark’s Iron Man in future MCU films. But there were hints: Marvel didn’t announce any new Spider-Man films at San Diego Comic Con this year—although the studio did reveal a whole slew of projects in development for the next phase of the MCU, now that the original Avengers multi-film storyline has come to a fitting close with .

So what happened? It’s all about money, of course. Under the current arrangement, Disney holds the merchandising rights and gets 5% of first-dollar gross (how much a film makes at the box office on its first day of release), according to Deadline. Sony holds the distribution and screen rights to Spider-Man solo films, starting with Sam Raimi’s 2002  with Tobey Maguire. Disney was pushing for a 50/50 co-financing agreement going forward, which Sony turned down flat. Nobody backed down, and so here we are.

This is honestly a head-scratching move on Sony’s part, given the key role Feige played in successfully rebooting the Spider-Man franchise with Holland in the title role. Granted, it’s understandable that the studio wouldn’t want to give up so much of its stake in its most successful (and profitable) franchise.  was the studio’s highest-grossing film ever. But as Deadline Hollywood points out, it’s a bit like saying one can win the NBA Championship without Michael Jordan:

Feige’s first decade at Marvel is largely unblemished, and his consistency has been nothing short of historic: even George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson haven’t seen everything turn into a hit, and so maybe only James Cameron has the success record that Feige has achieved. But Feige has done it all in the last 10 years, producing and overseeing 23 superheroes, with not a flop in the bunch. They’ve all been number-one openers that have collectively grossed $26.8 billion. Feige this year became the producer of the top-grossing film ever for two studios—Sony and Disney—and he produced three of the top-four highest-grossing films this year in and . This after scoring the first-ever Best Picture Oscar nom for a superhero film last year with . I ca’t think of a Hollywood producer/executive who has done anything close to this.

That said, Sony produced the Oscar-winning independent of Disney, so maybe it’s a good business decision after all. Tom Holland and director Jon Watts are still signed on for future Spider-Man movies, among other projects. And Disney/Marvel has all those new projects for the next phase of the MCU in the works. As for Feige, he’s taking on the X-Men universe, including Deadpool, on top of everything else in the wake of the 20th Century Fox acquisition. So he’ll have his hands full. The only real losers here are MCU fans, who will miss seeing their favorite webslinger mixing it up with the surviving Avengers and other characters going forward.

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