EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige won’t produce any further Spider-Man films because of an inability by Disney and Sony Pictures to reach new terms that would have given the former a co-financing stake going forward. A dispute that has taken place over the past few months at the top of Disney and Sony has essentially nixed Feige, and the future involvement of Marvel from the Spider-Man universe, sources said.
This comes at a moment when the last two films Kevin Feige produced broke all-time records — Disney’s Avengers: Endgame became the highest grossing film of all time, and Spider-Man: Far From Home this week surpassed the James Bond film Skyfall to become the all time highest grossing film for Sony Pictures.
Sources said there are two more Spider-Man films in the works that are meant to have director Jon Watts and Tom Holland front and center. Unless something dramatic happens, Feige won’t be the lead creative producer of those pictures.
There is a lot of webbing here, but it all comes down to money, and it’s easy to understand why both sides refused to give ground. Disney asked that future Spider-Man films be a 50/50 co-financing arrangement between the studios, and there were discussions that this might extend to other films in the Spider-Man universe. Sony turned that offer down flat, and I don’t believe they even came back to the table to figure out a compromise. Led by Tom Rothman and Tony Vinciquerra, Sony just simply didn’t want to share its biggest franchise. Sony proposed keeping the arrangement going under the current terms where Marvel receives in the range of 5% of first dollar gross, sources said. Disney refused.
Now, it’s easy to say that Feige has enough on his plate, especially after taking control of the X-Men universe in the Fox acquisition, including the Deadpool franchise, along with architecting the next phase of the Marvel superhero universe and building movies and shows for Disney +. But I’m told Feige loves Spider-Man, arguably the biggest superhero character in the Marvel canon. He would have continued if Disney and Sony could have reached new deal terms.
Essentially Sony has made a decision that is similar to saying, thank you, but we think we can win the championship without Michael Jordan. After all, Feige’s first decade at Marvel is largely unblemished and his consistency has been nothing short of historic: even George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson haven’t seen everything turn into a hit, and so maybe only James Cameron has the success record that Feige has achieved. But Feige has done it all in the last 10 years, producing and overseeing 23 superheros, with not a flop in the bunch. They’ve all been number one openers that have collectively grossed $26.8 billion. Feige this year became the producer of the top grossing film ever for two studios — Sony and Disney — and he produced three of the top four highest grossing films this year in Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home. This after scoring the first ever Best Picture Oscar nom for a superhero film last year with Black Panther. I can’t think of a Hollywood producer/executive who has done anything close to this.
And the launch of the new iteration of Spider-Man was done brilliantly with Marvel’s support and help. It has been a boon to both studios. Tom Holland’s character was introduced in the Joe & Anthony Russo-directed 2016 blockbuster Captain America: Civil War, the film that set up the two record breaking Avengers films. Sony’s first rebooted Spidey film, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, rode that Marvel wave and grossed $880 million worldwide, and then the webslinger was a key character in the two Avengers films, leading to the Spidey sequel that this week became Sony’s top grossing film ever.
Sources said Disney’s top brass for the past several months has sought new terms for Feige and the Marvel cross-pollination to continue. As the Spider-Man relationship grew, Feige and Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman spoke about the possibility of a wider involvement in the Sony-controlled Spider-man universe, which contains 900 characters. I’m told that Feige lent an unofficial hand with the blockbuster Venom, but I’ve also been told that that film was far from the polished product that grossed $856 million worldwide, until Rothman himself spent a good long time in the editing room helping to get it there.
It is understandable that the fiscally shrewd Rothman would balk at giving up half of Sony’s biggest franchise to Marvel. After all, Marvel already owns the merchandising on Spider-Man. Does the Mouse really need half of the movie universe also? Sony so far has decided that as valuable as Feige is, Disney is asking too high a price.
Sources said that Sony reasoned that they will be fine, without Feige. The creative template has been set on the Spider-Man films, and Watt and Holland are in place along with Amy Pascal, who became producer with Feige after she exited the executive suite after presiding over the previous Spider-man iterations directed by Sam Raimi and Marc Webb as Sony Pictures chief.
The Venom sequel is well underway with Andy Serkis directing Tom Hardy, and there is Morbius with Jared Leto, Kraven The Hunter, and another spinoff with the characters Silver Sable and Black Cat. And a Sinister Six film that got shelved. Sony, which once felt the ticking clock of generating a Spider-Man film every three or so years to prevent a rights reversion to Disney, now has plenty of pictures to make. And the studio also won the Best Animated Feature Oscar for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, a smash hit they made on their own.