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Why Spider-Man MCU movies are not on Disney Plus?

Despite joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2016, Spider-Man still can’t be found on Disney+. However, that will change in the near future.

Despite joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2016, Spider-Man still can’t be found on Disney+. However, that will change in the near future.
Gage Skidmore

Fans of Spider-Man hoping to watch the collection of movies in the web-slinger’s film franchise would expect to find them on Disney+ which owns Marvel Studios. However, a deal years ago, prior to Disney's acquisition of the superhero factory sold Spidey to Sony Pictures.

Looking at the success of superhero movies over the past couple of decades its hard to believe that one of the most iconic and beloved characters to come out of Marvel would be in the hands of another company. But that deal over two decades ago may just have been what kick started the constant stream of superhero blockbusters in cinemas.

How Sony came to own the rights to Spider-Man

Fans have always liked superhero movies but after initial success of the Superman franchise by the mid-1980s the trend had petered out. Hollywood didn’t see a guaranteed return on investment and lost interest, so that when Marvel put the Spider-Man film rights up for sale in 1985 there weren’t many takers. Eventually the rights were pawned off to a small studio, Canon Films, but the studio went under before a movie could make its way to the silver screen.

After bouncing around for several years, and much litigation, in 1999 Spidey was back in Marvel’s hands. However, the company promptly sold the rights to Spider-Man again, this time to Sony Pictures for $7 million. In 2002, Spider-Man swung into cinemas taking in a record $114 million in its opening weekend and eventually netting $821 million worldwide.

Disney scoops up Marvel

In 2009, Disney bought the superhero factory for $4 billion but without Spider-Man and the Spider-verse of characters. Also missing were the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, whose rights have now returned to Marvel Studios.

The partnership, nonetheless, has raked in billions as the Marvel Universe took to the big screen. Since 2018, seven Marvel films collectively brought in $9.4 billion for Disney in addition to billions more in licensing revenue from merchandise sales. Marvel Studios is worth around $53 billion in 2021 according to Forbes’ estimates.

When asked in 2012 by Wired about not having “all the heavy hitters at Marvel Studios”, Kevin Feige said “We have a great relationship with Sony and Fox. Would we like to have them all back? Sure. But we are more than comfortable with the way things stand now, because it worked out pretty well, right?”

Disney and Sony reach a deal to bring Spider-Man to Disney+

Spider-Man has become a bit of a cash cow for Sony so it is unlikely to give up the rights anytime soon despite the hassle. Under the 1998 deal, the studio has perpetual rights but must release a Spider-Man movie every five years and nine months.

In April the two entertainment giants reached a six-year deal that would see Spider-Man, and other Marvel properties held by Sony, appearing across Disney’s array of platforms, both streaming and linear. Disney+ will begin to have access starting with Sony’s 2022 release slate once Netflix’s exclusivity to stream the films expires.