Sony Pictures, the studio that owns the film rights to comic book character Spider-Man, has spoken out about the split with Disney that will see the webslinger booted out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A statement released by Sony on Tuesday night said the company was “disappointed” by Disney’s demand for a greater stake in the Spider-Man films and by its proposal to scale down the involvement of Marvel president Kevin Feige in the movies.
“Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterised recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise,” said the 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.
Sony’s words present an unusually public condemnation of the outfit whose purchase of Marvel in 2009 for $4bn (£3.3bn) has heightened its box-office dominance.
Negotiations had been under way for some months between Sony and Disney over the future of the property, with Disney demanding future films be financed evenly between the two studios and Feige act as consultant producer.
However Sony wanted to stick to existing terms, which entitled Marvel to 5% of first-dollar gross and all merchandising revenue, with the rest going to Sony. The exact financing ratio is unknown.
Disney then queried the depth of Feige’s involvement, given the super-producer’s attachment to other Marvel projects, including the new streaming channel Disney Plus, which launches in November.
Feige has been closely associated with the Avengers series since the release of Iron Man in 2008, and has been widely credited with satisfying the franchise’s devoted fans alongside Disney’s desire for awards and critical recognition.
Black Panther became the first superhero film to win a best picture Oscar nomination in 2018; last month, Avengers: Endgame overtook Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time. Overall, Feige’s films have taken nearly $27bn.
Earlier this week, the latest in the Spider-Man series, Far From Home, deposed Skyfall as Sony’s biggest film ever at the global box office. Two further films starring Tom Holland are said to be in the works.
In 2015, Marvel and Sony brokered their rights-sharing arrangement that would mean Spider-Man could appear in Avengers movies – and vice-versa. The split therefore presents a substantial plotting headache for both companies, as Holland’s Spider-Man had appeared in five Marvel Cinematic Universe films to date, and Far From Home teed up the next major Avengers storyline.
The series also now faces substantial major-character holes, after Endgame saw the departure from the series of many of its key figures.
Writing on Instagram, Jeremy Renner (who plays Hawkeye in the Avengers films) expressed the hope Spider-Man could return to the fold – addressing his concerns to Sony, rather than Disney.