While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown and grown, Spider-Man has spent more than a decade doing his own thing.
Sony has held the movie rights to the Marvel superhero since it bought them from the then-independent comic-book publisher in 1999, before Marvel started developing its own characters into a series of hit movies and was bought by Disney.
After more than a decade web-slinging on his own, the smart-mouthed superhero reunited with fellow comic-book characters Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, and others, with an appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year. And his latest movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, due out on July 7 in the US, will integrate the character even further into the MCU.
But even if Homecoming, which has strong reviews, performs exceedingly well at the box office, it won’t add to Marvel’s top line. The Disney-owned studio won’t see a dime of the movie’s box-office returns. Marvel gave up its claim to Spider-Man’s movie revenues back in 2011 as part of its deal with Sony, the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall). The Japanese conglomerate now keeps all the film profits.
Marvel used to receive 5% of the revenues from Spider-Man movies, which would have amounted to nearly $125 million from the Sam Raimi-directed 2000s trilogy, by Quartz’s calculations.
In 2015, when the two studios paired up to reboot the franchise, Sony agreed to foot the entire production cost, while Marvel came aboard to manage the process. If you’re Marvel, that deal doesn’t sound so great. Why make the movie at all?
It’s all about the toys, pajamas, backpacks, lunch boxes, and other Spider-Man-related merchandising that becomes more valuable to Disney whenever a popular new movie with the web-slinger hits the big screen. When Marvel gave up its stake in the Spider-Man movies, it bought the full rights to the merchandising revenue (paywall) that it had previously split with Sony. (Plus, it got to use the character in its own movies, like Captain America: Civil War, which grossed more than $1.15 billion worldwide, and the upcoming next Avengers films.)
Marvel could clear more than $200 million in sales from Spidey merchandise alone in a year, if Homecoming is as popular as The Amazing Spider-Man series starring Andrew Garfield, or nearly $400 million if it’s as big as Spider-Man 2 and 3, based on revenues reported by the Journal.
When the studios renegotiated that deal in 2011, Marvel paid Sony—which was in need of cash—a lump sum of $175 million and agreed to fork over an additional $35 million each time a new movie was made, in exchange for the full merchandising revenues.
That $35 million will also reportedly be reduced if the movie grosses over $750 million, according to a 2015 tweak to the deal that came when Disney and Sony partnered (paywall) up on the reboot. If Homecoming passes that threshold, it’ll be the fourth movie to do so this year, including a Marvel movie and another from Disney.