Spider-Man swings into Marvel's cinematic universe

A still from 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'.
Source: Marvel

Marvel announced this week something that comic book fans have long been waiting for: Spider-Man is officially joining its cinematic universe.

Although an entity of Marvel, the film rights for Spider-Man were obtained by Sony in 1999. Up until now, Spider-Man could fight alongside the Avengers in the comics, but was not allowed to appear on screen with any Marvel canon.

According to Variety, no money exchanged hands in the deal. Sony Pictures will not receive a cut of the box-office revenue from Disney for any Marvel films that portray the web-slinger. Likewise, Marvel will not monetarily gain from a Sony produced Spider-Man film.

Both studios benefit from the partnership. Marvel gets a pivotal character for its forthcoming films and Sony gets exposure and a reboot for a new Spider-Man franchise.

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"Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the [Marvel cinematic universe] into future Spider-Man films," Marvel said in a statement on Monday.

When "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" failed to meet box-office expectations, Sony initially pushed the third film's release date from 2016 to 2018.

Now, a new reboot of the Spider-Man franchise is slated for a 2017, one that will not star Andrew Garfield in the lead role, and will be accepted as part of the Marvel cinematic universe canon, Variety reports. It will be co-produced by Marvel Studios, but Sony will maintain final creative control as well as marketing and distribution rights.

Despite initial commercial success in 2002, Sony's Spider-Man franchise has recorded less domestic revenue with each released film. Overall, the company's five Spider-Man films earned almost $1.6 billion domestically over 12 years.

Marvel has had more consistent success since its 2008 launch of its cinematic universe. Phase 1 of the multiyear series consists of six films and has collectively garnered more than $1.7 billion in domestic box-office sales over the course of four years. Phase 1 concluded in 2012.

Phase 2 of Marvel's franchise launched in 2013 and similarly contains six films, four of which have been released. The company has already grossed more than $1.2 billion domestically. The final two films will be released in 2015, including the long anticipated "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" which is expected to collect $690 million domestically and gross $1.9 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Frontier.

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Sony's Spider-Man franchise has grossed $3.9 billion worldwide, but pales in comparison to the $7.1 billion that the Marvel cinematic universe has earned in a far shorter span of time.

Marvel's Phase 3 will commence in 2016 with "Captain America: Civil War" and will be followed with nine other films including the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War."

Despite the groundbreaking deal between the two companies, film rights will remain with Sony so long as it continues to produce Spider-Man films.

Entertainment Weekly estimates that the company has to produce a Spidey film every three years in order to fulfill its contract, but it seems the undisclosed contract likely has a span of five years. The last film in the Toby McGuire reboot was released in 2007 and "Amazing Spider-Man" was not released until 2012.

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Marvel has regained film rights to characters from studios who failed to exercise their license. Daredevil returned to the fold in 2012 when Fox was unable to produce a film in its contracted amount of time. The blind hero will soon appear in a Marvel-funded Netflix series.

There are only a few comic book stories that remain outside of Marvel's cinematic control. Fox retains its film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four universes and Sony holds Spider-Man.