Source: Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures

The idea of Spider-Man swinging into the Marvel Cinematic Universe was only a dream until February 2015. That’s when Sony and Marvel Studios (parent company Disney) announced an unprecedented deal that would allow both studios to use the character. The deal was extended once before, but as the current pact approaches expiration, Spider-Man franchise producer Amy Pascal hopes to see Marvel and Sony remain friendly neighbors.

“I think about crying,” Pascal told Vanity Fair while discussing her feelings on a potential split. “I can only hope for a future where things work out. I’ve known [Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige] since he was Avi’s very, very quiet assistant, who for many years sat in that room listening to us and being so much smarter than any of us without any of us realizing. I will say that working with Marvel has been one of the highlights of my professional career.”

That Pascal is in favor of Marvel and Sony continuing to work together helps, but the decision does not rest with her. Pascal may have once led Sony Pictures, but she is no longer an executive with the company. For the last few years, she’s been a producer and her company, Pascal Pictures, has an overall deal with Sony.

It will be up to executives at Marvel, Disney, and Sony Pictures to negotiate a second extension of the Spider-pact. The original agreement was one-for-one. Spider-Man would appear in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film distributed by Disney (Captain America: Civil War) and then Marvel Studios would produce a solo Spider-Man movie to distributed by Sony Pictures (Spider-Man: Homecoming).

There was an eye toward the future, but no guarantees. That is until an extension was signed to cover Spidey’s appearances in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame (distributed by Disney), along with another Marvel produced solo film, Spider-Man: Far From Home (distributed by Sony). As far as what’s been shared publicly, the current agreement expires with Far From Home, which hits theaters July 5, 2019.

Marvel Studios has been quiet about its plans beyond 2019. The studio doesn’t want anyone looking past Avengers: Endgame. Marvel probably would have preferred not to release a movie about a character who died in Infinity War just two months after Endgame, as it requires the presently-dead Peter Parker to appear in Far From Home marketing materials before Endgame‘s release. Sony needed a tentpole for summer 2019, however, and had the option of blocking Marvel from using Spider-Man in its two-part Phase Three finale if Marvel didn’t play ball.

As much as this illustrates a potential point of contention, it also offers a tiny glimmer of hope. Perhaps Marvel and Sony have already agreed to another extension and are just being quiet about it until Spider-Man is officially resurrected on the big screen. Pascal’s hypothetical tears do not necessarily mean that an extension hasn’t been signed, or isn’t close to being signed. She may not have mentioned a new deal simply because she can’t yet.

If there’s no extension in place, then there is legitimate cause for concern that Far From Home will be Spider-Man’s last appearance in the MCU. Sony is not in the position now that the studio was in early 2015 coming off of a hacking scandal at the end of the previous year. The success of  Venom ($852.7M worldwide) may prompt the studio to consider its options and rethink just how essential a partnership with Marvel Studios will be going forward.

Venom is going to keep making money in China, creeping closer to Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s worldwide total of $880.2M. Homecoming was a major improvement over The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($709M), so Marvel Studios undoubtedly brought the franchise back to full health. Sony wouldn’t even attempt to dispute that.

Now that Spidey is no longer ailing, however, Sony may want to see another Marvel Studios premium that lifts Far From Home into the $900M-$1B+ range. If Far From Home stays in the $800M range, an extension is less appealing to Sony since that now looks like a result the studio can deliver on its own. That is especially true if Spider-Man is going to battle Venom to offer moviegoers a big event film.

Tom Holland signed a six-movie deal to play Spider-Man with half of those being for Marvel/Disney and the other half being for Sony. Unless he only has a separately-negotiated cameo (unlikely), Holland will have fulfilled the Disney half of his contract with Endgame. That leaves one solo film for Sony after Far From Home.

It is not known if the deal between Marvel and Sony includes any stipulations regarding Tom Holland’s casting and whether his portrayal of Peter Parker is exclusive to the MCU regardless of the distributor for a given film. If Holland is exclusive to the MCU, then Sony will need to keep working with Marvel for at least one more film. If the studio is free to move the actor over to Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, then a showdown between Holland’s Spider-Man and Tom Hardy’s Venom is a viable option that gives Sony leverage in any dealings with Marvel and zero fear of just walking away.

It is premature to panic as though Far From Home is the web-slinger’s last hurrah in the MCU since an extension is still possible or has already been signed. It is, however, reasonable to be concerned that Spider-Man’s days in the MCU are numbered. Even if Marvel remains in charge for one more solo outing with Holland, the more Sony succeeds on its own, the more confidence the studio will gain in its ability to oversee the franchise entirely.

Short of Disney buying the Spider-Man movie license back from Sony, there will never be any guarantees of a long-term future for Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we may never see Miles Morales at all.

SOURCE: Vanity Fair