For decades, Disney was a standalone company. It started with animation, but over time grew and took over other entertainment companies like ESPN, National Geographic, Star Wars, and, most recently, Twentieth Century Fox. While all of these acquisitions were huge for Disney, nothing has done more for them than Marvel. Back in 2009, Disney bought Marvel Studios and with it the rights to most of the film franchises and comic characters. The only exceptions were X-Men (owned by Fox at the time) and Spider-Man.
Sony, which owned the Spider-Man film rights, had attempted to make two separate Spider-Man franchises, but both ended up dipping in box office revenue. But, Sony made a deal with Disney in 2015: Spider-Man could be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as long as Sony made most of the profits from the films. In this deal, Sony funded the movies and made box office profits while Disney got all the revenue from Spider-Man cameos and merchandising.
This deal was going extremely well, with two Spider-Man movies featuring Tom Holland as their lead. These two films were immensely successful at the box office, with the former bringing in $880 million worldwide, making it the sixth best July opening of all time. Then, on August 20, it all went wrong.
Say goodbye to artistic expression, because soon there won’t be a place for it within the film industry
Disney reportedly demanded higher profits from the deal, going from 5 percent earnings to 50 percent, a move that Sony was not comfortable making. Without a deal, Spider-Man would not continue to be in the MCU. After huge fan uproar, mostly targeted at Sony, the two companies are starting to renegotiate, with rumors that they’ll be able to find a mutual agreement that benefits both companies.
This whole situation is simply a disaster. It speaks to something much larger than a single franchise. Disney is using its power to try to assert more control over the film industry, with fan-favorite characters caught in the crossfire. Many Marvel fans immediately started to blame Sony upon hearing the news of the failed deal. In reality, instead of blaming Sony, people should question how much of a monopoly Disney has on the film industry. Since Disney bought out Twentieth Century Fox, Sony is one of the only major film companies countering Disney. They have to make money to stay afloat, but if Disney bullies them into losing their Spider-Man profits, they’ll end up practically bankrupt. If that happens, it’s likely that Disney would gain more properties.
The recent Spider-Man movies have been well received by audiences, but people need to think about more than if they’ll be able to watch another. The entertainment industry at large is under risk of losing all creative control. Disney has shown time and time again it doesn’t care about creativity. All Disney cares about is profit, that’s it. If a movie can be entertaining enough to get butts in seats, it’s good enough for them. By harnessing their fans’ anger through brand loyalty, Disney is attempting to take down another major entertainment giant. And after Sony, there are not many left.
This summer, about half of all domestic tickets sold were for Disney-produced films. The company has utilized their immense wealth to buy out movie theaters and spread their advertising everywhere. They can do practically whatever they want. Spider-Man is only the first step in complete media domination. Say goodbye to artistic expression, because soon there won’t be a place for it within the film industry. Unless audiences take a look at the bigger picture and start fighting for creativity instead of victim blaming a company desperately trying to hold onto its profits, film creativity will soon be a thing of the past.