Sony 'Spider-Man' deal with Marvel shows how important fandom is to franchise success

Key Points
  • In a joint statement, Sony and Walt Disney revealed that Marvel, led by Kevin Feige, would produce a third Spider-Man film due out in theaters on July 16, 2021.
  • Not only that, but, as part of the arrangement, Spider-Man will also appear in a future Marvel Studios film.
  • Sony had faced mounting criticism from comic book fans in the wake of a breakdown in talks between the studio and Marvel.
Tom Holland reprises his role as Peter Parker / Spider-Man in Sony's "Spider-Man: Far From Home."

Thank the fans.

After closing the door on Spider-Man's involvement with Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe earlier in the month, Sony announced Friday that everyone's favorite webslinger from Queens would once again swing with the Avengers.

In a joint statement, Sony and Walt Disney revealed that Marvel, led by Kevin Feige, would produce a third Spider-Man film due out in theaters on July 16, 2021.

Not only that, but, as part of the arrangement, Spider-Man will also appear in a future Marvel Studios film.

And we have the fans to thank.

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"I think the public backlash may have had some effect on the thinking as it was pretty vocal and Sony even mentioned it recently," Jeremy Conrad, founder and editor-in-chief of MCU Cosmic, said.

Sony had faced mounting criticism from comic book fans and experts in the wake of the breakdown of talks between the studio and Marvel.

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"Those people commenting on social media are the ticket buyers," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said.

Since releasing its first Disney-produced Marvel movie in 2012, the company has grossed more than $18.2 billion on the films at the global box office. Not to mention, "Avengers: Endgame" is currently the highest-grossing movie of all time, with a final gross of $2.79 billion. That wouldn't have been possible without the fans.

"It's hard to see any path in their decision-making that didn't include listening to fans," Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, said. "And that's a credit to everyone in the room and that's a credit to Sony and Disney."

The fate of Spider-Man

Spider-Man has long been a fan favorite character and his introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a boon for both studios.

A new iteration of Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, was a younger character who could grow and take on greater responsibility in future Marvel films. And Sony earned back the goodwill it had lost to fans in the wake of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

It was a win-win.

However, when talks broke down between the two studios when it came to a third stand-alone Spider-Man, it quickly caused a frenzy among devoted fans on social media.

"Fans are not always right," Robbins said. "This is one situation where the fans were right, the fans knew they were right and the studios knew they were right."

With a superhero as important as Spider-Man, it had seemed out of character for Feige and Disney to bow out of a deal with Sony, even if they didn't get the monetary compensation they wanted at the box office. According to Deadline, Disney had reportedly proposed a 50-50 co-financing deal in August, meaning each company would put up half of the production costs and then split the profits. Sony had reportedly refused.

After all, much of the plot of "Spider-Man: Far From Home" revolved around Peter Parker dealing with the death of his mentor Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, in the wake of "Avengers: Endgame" and figuring out what kind of hero he was going to be. Parker's growth as a character was a set up for future films in the franchise.

"It was so clearly a bad decision, no matter who you think is the bad guy or the good guy, it was just such a bad decision to break Spidey away from the MCU," Dergarabedian said.

Dane Collaro, dressed as Spider-Man, shows his displeasure with the Sony/Disney spat over the web slinger, as he walks through the D23 Expo with his girlfriend Lauren Wood, dressed as Anastasia, in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Aug 23, 2019.
MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

One of the most resounding questions was how Sony would handle the character in future movies.

If Sony had moved forward with its own Spider-Man films, unaffiliated with Marvel, it would have had to create a completely different Spider-Man. It wouldn't have been able to have any connection to the events or the characters from the MCU.

Of course, Sony won't have to worry about that now.

"The power of fan pressure, analysts' comments and journalists intense reporting may have had a hand in bringing Spidey back into the MCU fold," Dergarabedian said. "Something like this just would not have been possible pre-social media when studios' decision making processes were not open to such a broad-based level of public scrutiny and in this case, criticism."

Dergarabedian noted that fans aren't just well-versed in the characters and story lines of comic books, but also about how Hollywood operates.

"Fans felt like they were collateral damage in this whole process," he said. "Most of the fans got it and most of the sentiment that came out from fans was really spot on."

For the love of Kevin Feige

The renewal of the partnership between Marvel and Sony is a big relief for fans of the MCU. Any questions they had about the fate of Spider-Man in future movies was quelled now that the character was back in the hands of Feige.

Of course, Sony will have a say in what happens to the character and the plot of future movies, but Feige has long been seen as the master puppeteer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its success.

Feige helped lay the groundwork on 23 interconnected feature films and has more than a dozen projects in the works, none of which are tied to the collection of Marvel characters Disney recently acquired from Fox.

"Hopefully, this will not be a case of 'be careful what you wish for,'" Robbins said. "But I don't think that'll be the case with Kevin Feige."

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Marvel fans have become fiercely protective of Feige over the last decade, as he has orchestrated the most lucrative and beloved franchises in cinematic history.

"Kevin Feige, to the fans, is really a god," Dergarabedian said. "Feige is not some unknown person, cloaked in mystery. He actually has a presence and a relationship with the fans."

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