Marvel may now be one of the biggest movie studios in the world, but the situation in the 1990s was very different. The company went bankrupt and, to ease their financial difficulties, started selling off movie rights to a number of their well-known characters.
X-Men and the Fantastic Four went to 20th Century Fox, Hulk went to Universal and, of course, Spider-Man went to Sony, but that last deal could've been much, much bigger.
A new report in the Wall Street Journal says that, when Sony made their offer for Spidey back in 1998, Marvel's new chief Ike Perlmutter made a counter: the studio could have the rights to almost every Marvel character, including Iron Man, Ant-Man, Thor, and Black Panther, along with Spidey, for $25m. Sony executive Yair Landau wasn't sold. According to the WSJ, his response was:
"Nobody gives a sh*t about any of the other Marvel characters. Go back and do a deal for only Spider-Man.”
In the end, Sony purchased the Spider-Man rights for around $10m, and the rest is cinematic history. Sony went on to make five Spider-Man movies, but eventually things came full circle with Marvel getting the rights to the character back (in a co-ownership deal) in 2015. Marvel, for their part, came out of the dark times with Iron Man in 2008, launching their cinematic universe that is now 18 movies deep and has brought in over $13 billion.
With that hindsight it looks like a major mistake on Sony's part, but there were no guarantees back then that it would've worked out - the majority of the characters were considered B-list, superhero movies weren't the almost nailed-on hits they are now, and it's not certain Sony would've done things the same way Marvel have in building a universe - but it's a huge case of 'what could've been'.
What do you think would've happened had Sony bought the character rights? Let us know down in the comments.
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A mix of wise-old man in a young man's body with a child-like wonder about him and a great otherworldly sensibility.