Marvel’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is coming home.
Sony Pictures and the Walt Disney company, which owns Marvel Studios, have agreed a deal to share the Spider-Man franchise.
Despite being one of Marvel’s most iconic characters, the film rights to Spider-Man have belonged to Sony’s Hollywood division since it paid around $7m (£4.6m) for them in 1999.
Spider-Man has been one of Sony Pictures’ biggest earners at the box office ever since. Four of the studio’s five highest-grossing films of all time have come from the web-slinging franchise, the other being recent James Bond film Skyfall.
In fact, Sony’s Spider-Man is the fifth best performing franchise of all time if calculated by average box office gross – higher than Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Shrek and Star Wars.
Cumulatively, its five Spider-Man flicks have made $1.578bn at the box office, at an average of $315.9m per film. Spider-Man is the best-performing franchise of five films or less of all time.
However, with great power comes great responsibility, and Sony has increasingly been at a loss with what to do with a franchise whose fortunes have been flagging.
The most recent instalment, 2014’s "Amazing Spider-Man 2", was its worst-performing at the box office to date with a worldwide haul of $506.1m. Spider-Man's financial performance has been slipping ever since director Sam Raimi’s first adaptation in 2002.
After three efforts led by Raimi, starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, Sony rebooted the character with British actor Andrew Garfield in the lead role of “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2012.
Yet as Sony has failed to pull bigger revenues into its web, Disney’s Marvel Studios has bludgeoned its way to box office domination.
Marvel’s last five films have all made more than “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. “Marvel’s The Avengers” made a staggering $895.2m worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film of all time.
By teaming up with Marvel, Sony will call on the expertise of producer Kevin Feige who has been at the helm of the last 10 Marvel smashes and has reportedly been keen on working Spider-Man into his films.
That’s a sentiment shared by fans who have long felt it remiss such a notable character has been missing from Marvel’s on-screen universe. Spider-Man could now feature in future Avengers movies and will get yet another reboot (unlikely to feature Garfield) in 2017.
Yet Spidey’s homecoming doesn’t just represent a chance for Marvel to satisfy its fans. Both Marvel and Sony both need each other for in order to keep the blockbuster box office receipts coming.
The Disney-owned studio is increasingly running out of brands known beyond the comic book crowd to bring to the multiplex. Films such as last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the forthcoming “Ant-Man” are hardly based on household names.
The new deal between the two studios will see Sony handling “creative control, marketing and distribution” and Marvel taking control of production.
For both parties, this represents the ideal business solution.
Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton put it best when he said: “This is the right decision for the franchise, for our business, for Marvel, and for the fans.”