On Aug. 20, the long-simmering spat between Sony and Disney-Marvel over Spider-Man reached a breaking point: Any partnership between the two for a third installment of the Tom Holland-fronted franchise was “100 percent dead,” according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
But in true Peter Parker-underdog fashion, an unlikely hero emerged to reconcile the two warring factions less than six weeks later: Holland himself. Sources say the star, 23, made multiple appeals to Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger and Sony film chairman Tom Rothman to reach a resolution, announced Sept. 27, for Marvel to produce a third Spider-Man movie for Sony, and for the character to appear in at least one additional Disney-Marvel film.
Marvel chief Kevin Feige (who also is teaming with Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy on a Star Wars movie) will run creative point. Disney will earn 25 percent of net gross on a third Spider-Man — opening July 16, 2021 — and chip in 25 percent of the budget.
Holland made a surprise appearance at Disney’s D23 Expo days after the Sony-Disney divorce to promote the animated movie Onward. He earned big cheers by thanking fans for support and quoting Tony Stark: “I love you 3,000.” Online, fans adopted the hashtag #SaveSpiderMan to lobby Sony to make a deal with Disney.
Holland began flexing his diplomacy after the D23 wrapped Aug. 25. He leaned on Rothman to re-engage with Disney (the actor was able to leverage his clout because he also is set to star in Sony’s Uncharted) and also surprisingly reached out to Iger, beseeching one of Hollywood’s most powerful executives to return to the table.
Money, as usual, was the sticking point. Initially, sources say, Disney sought a 50-50 co-financing deal. In January, a more modest 25-25 proposal was put on the table. Sources say Sony didn’t counter for almost six months, so in June, before the opening of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Disney Studios co-chair Alan Horn broke off negotiations. During Far From Home‘s $1.13 billion-dollar run, both sides dug in their heels.
After all, Sony was feeling confident about how it handled last year’s Spider-Man spinoff Venom, a film that was largely panned by the critics but still earned a better-than-expected $856 million. Disney, meanwhile, was feeling invincible after Avengers: Endgame grossed $2.79 billion, becoming the top grossing feature of all time, not adjusted for inflation.
Eventually, a thaw began between Sony and Disney after Holland showed them the outpouring of fan support. In the end, the new deal had something for everyone. Disney won a considerable stake in a new movie, up from a nominal producing fee that sources say amounted to less than 5 percent of the gross for each of the first two Spider-Man films.
“I am thrilled that Spidey’s journey in the MCU will continue, and I and all of us at Marvel Studios are very excited that we get to keep working on it,” Feige said on Sept. 27. “Spider-Man is a powerful icon and hero whose story crosses all ages and audiences around the globe. He also happens to be the only hero with the superpower to cross cinematic universes, so as Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse you never know what surprises the future might hold.”
Sony gets the Marvel treatment and imprimatur for a third movie (and who knows, maybe more). And moviegoers can enjoy a resolution to a cliffhanger and a happy ending for a beloved character.