Amazing. Spectacular. Sensational. All of these descriptions apply equally to the box office earnings of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spidey himself. Largely secured by the unprecedented deal held between Marvel and Sony, this triumph represented a literal homecoming for the wall-crawling hero, although success wasn't always guaranteed. In fact, Marvel still won't take home any box office earnings from Spider-Man: Homecoming, even now.
Sling When You're Winning
Following the divisive release of Amazing Spider-Man 2, many feared that the rain would come down and wash Spidey out from the hearts and minds of comic book fans worldwide. Sure, Spider-Man was already an established hero onscreen, but not even diehard Webheads could have predicted how Homecoming would gross more than any other MCU debut in its opening weekend alone.
Studio estimates suggest that Homecoming opened to a worldwide gross of $257 million in its first few days of release, proving that it pays to give the fans what they want. By amalgamating the worlds of Spider-Man and the rest of the MCU into one cohesive narrative, cinema-goers finally saw the pages of their favorite comics fully represented onscreen, making it little wonder that Homecoming is such a hit.
If Spider-Man: Homecoming keeps on swinging upwards then predictions suggest that Tom Holland's first solo venture could ultimately gross somewhere between $800 and $900 million worldwide. Shockingly though, Marvel Studios won't be able to claim a single cent of this for themselves, and it's all because of the deal that they made with Sony.
What A Tangled Web We Weave
Crawl back to 2014 for a moment, and you'll remember that the relative failure of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had left the franchise battered and bruised like it had just gone ten rounds with the Rhino. Pinned under the weight of heavy criticism, much like Spidey himself towards the end of Homecoming, Sony were left flailing, throwing out ideas of a solo Aunt May spin-off that revealed exactly how aimless the franchise had become.
After 15 years, five movies and $4 billion in global box office, Sony suddenly found themselves struggling to live up to the "Amazing" moniker that Stan Lee first bequeathed on Spider-Man back in 1962.
In early 2015, Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal met Marvel Entertainment Chief Executive Isaac Perlmutter to discuss a possible merger, with the hopes of reigniting interest in your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. After much debate, a deal was reached whereby Spider-Man would be integrated into the MCU, rebooting the franchise with Tom Holland's debut as the wallcrawler in Captain America: Civil War.
Specifics of this historic deal were kept under wraps for the most part, although the general assumption was that Marvel and Sony would share future profits for any cinematic appearance from Spider-Man, whether it be in a solo venture or team-up effort. However, a recent article written by The L.A. Times delved deep into the negotiation process to reveal that Sony will take home every cent made from the box office revenue of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
So Why Did Marvel Agree To This Deal?
Whether Spider-Man: Homecoming crosses the $1 billion threshold at the global box office or not, Marvel won't earn a single cent from ticket sales revenue. However, the studio may still come out swinging thanks to one particular caveat in their deal with Sony.
Sony benefits from this partnership by reinvigorating interest in both their flagship hero and spin-offs such as Venom and Silver & Black — not to mention the box office revenue that they'll receive from the proposed Spider-Man trilogy. However, Marvel may still win out in the long term as they've managed to retain all of the merchandising rights for Spidey's future appearances onscreen.
In reality, Disney earns more money through merchandise sales than they do through the box office, no matter how successful their individual films might be. According to the L.A. Times, Disney made almost $760 million from Star Wars toys alone last year and that's without taking other forms of merchandising into account. Spider-Man: Homecoming may hit the billion dollar mark for Sony at the box office, but merchandising for one of the world's most popular superheroes could easily surpass this in the long run.
In fact, The Hollywood Reporter revealed back in 2014 that the Spider-Man license grossed $1.3 billion that year, which turned out to be more than the Avengers, Batman and Superman combined. If Spider-Man merchandising can earn that much off the relative failure of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — the lowest-earning movie in the franchise to date — then imagine what Marvel can make following the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming!
For Marvel, Spider-Man's spiritual homecoming is a success on two fronts. Creatively speaking, incorporating Spidey into team-up movies such as Avengers: Infinity War is a huge boost for Marvel, increasing the box office potential of these projects thanks to the presence of such a widely beloved character. As Studio President Kevin Feige said to The L.A. Times:
“We've been able to create this cinematic universe that now provides that backdrop onto which you can put Peter Parker and have that dynamic he was always meant to have. To Amy’s credit and to Michael Lynton's credit, they realized this was the best thing for the character.”
On the other hand though, this uniquely profitable deal is also a huge win for Marvel in financial terms. Long after Tom Holland has hung up his red and blue underoos for another Hollywood franchise, the legacy of Spider-Man: Homecoming and its inevitable sequels will continue promoting Disney merchandise for years to come. Love it or hate it, but Spider-Man: Homecoming is essentially a $175 million commercial for Disney toys.
Do you think Sony made the right deal here? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!