Spider-Man will soon grace the silver screen alongside fellow Marvel comic book heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow. After years of fan insistence and swirling rumors, Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Disney (NYSE:DIS) have inked a deal to bring the famed webslinger to the incredibly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and the crossover has massive potential for both companies.
What prompted this amazing team-up in the midst of the ongoing battle for superhero movie supremacy? And where do recent developments leave competitor 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) (NASDAQ:FOXA) in the supercharged celluloid rumble?
As per the recently announced deal, a rebooted Spider-Man will make his debut in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War in 2016 and then return in a 2017 solo film co-produced with Sony. This integration with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and subsequent outings will be overseen by MCU orchestrator Kevin Feige and Sony's Amy Pascal. Neither company will get revenue from the films on which the other leads production.
With great power comes the great responsibility of an expanded universe
The impetus for this deal can be traced back to the 2014 failure of Amazing Spider-Man 2. While it might seem odd to classify a film that grossed approximately $709 million globally as a dud, a lot was riding on the picture, and its performance came in well below expectations. The production and marketing budget was reported to be in the neighborhood of $400 million, so the movie failed to generate meaningful returns and complicated plans to launch subsequent films in the Amazing franchise.
Sony was counting on the sequel to return the rebooted series to the lofty box office heights established by the original trilogy and to launch its expanded Spider-universe, but Amazing Spider-Man 2 wound up as the lowest-grossing film in the broader franchise.
The announcement of the Sony-Disney deal was followed by news that the spin-off film, Sinister Six, had been delayed but was still in production. The movie was previously set to revolve around villains established in the Amazing series and was due for release in Nov. 2016. Sony is likely reworking the project as the property moves in a new direction.
A female-led Spider-Man project was also set to debut in 2017, and a movie built around anti-hero Venom was being developed as well -- it is likely both these films are undergoing big changes if they are still moving forward.
How the new movie alliance stands to benefit Sony and Disney
In exchange for joining up with the Disney and Marvel crew, Sony has the opportunity to breathe new life into the Spider-Man property. The Marvel movies have been box office juggernauts, generating more than $7.16 billion to become the most successful film franchise in history.
The popularity of the Marvel universe helped to propel the otherwise unknown Guardians of the Galaxy property to box office glory, so there is reason to believe the Avengers bump can restore Spidey to his previous heights. If that happens, Sony would have a better chance of building an expanded universe around its characters, even if the Disney team-up creates some extra red tape.
With Spider-Man joining the MCU, Disney can now take full advantage of the film merchandizing rights it purchased from Sony in 2011 and better incorporate the characters in its theme parks. The deal also brings one of the biggest heroes into the MCU fold and almost certainly raises the box office draw for the films in which he appears. Disney delayed four of its Marvel films following the deal in order to better incorporate the webhead.
Disney is using its Marvel muscle to clobber Fox
Similar to Sony, Fox retains the rights to produce films based on the Fantastic Four and X-Men series so long as it releases movies within the designated time frame. Marvel had already discontinued Fantastic Four comics and barred writers from creating new characters in the X-Men comic book series.
Disney had also opted not to create toys to tie-in with the summer hit, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the ban on new characters in the comic book property have been described as an attempt to divert fanfare to Marvel's similarly mutant-based Inhumans series and its 2018 film adaptation.
Fox is on its second attempt to turn the Fantastic Four into a successful film franchise, with a reboot set to play in theaters this August. There appears to be some animosity between Fox and Disney, but if the new Fantastic Four film flops, the House of Mouse stands a better chance of reacquiring the property or bringing its characters to the MCU through a Spider-Man-esque deal.
One exciting alliance has been formed, but the superhero movie battle rages on.
Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.