With all the superhero movies coming out nowadays, there’s a lot of money to be made. The Avengers alone made $1.5 billion worldwide according to IMDb, while franchises like Spider-Man have made a habit of breaking box office records. Way back before they were cash cows though, Marvel saw their various superheroes as commodities to be sold off to make a quick buck. Starting as early as 1985, franchises were offered up to studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox, and more, culminating in a whole mess of reasons why Marvel can’t bring characters they themselves created into the cinematic fold.
Each studio with a Marvel property keeps it jealously guarded, knowing full well the moneymaking potential each respective franchise represents. While it would make sense for the rights to return to their original creators, the current owners have kept an iron grip since they first acquired their various properties.
Owned by: Sony Pictures (and Marvel, sort of)
Eight years before Marvel Studios even existed, the comic book publishing house sold the rights to Spider-Man, and so ensued a series of acquisitions and contracts that eventually landed it at Sony Pictures. They in turn raked in over an estimated $800 million at worldwide box offices with their first movie, spawning two more sequels and an eventual series reboot. However, since the release of The Amazing Spider Man 2, the franchise came to a screeching halt in the wake of sub-par box office returns.
A recent bargain struck between Marvel and Sony though has blurred the lines of ownership. The agreement reached by both studios goes as follows: Sony retains the standalone movie rights to Spider-Man, Marvel gets creative control over the web-slinger in all formats, and both parties get to walk away rich. Marvel’s already included a recast Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, and can continue to have him appear in future properties. On Sony’s side, 2017’s release of Spider-Man: Homecoming will mark their first collaborative film with Marvel.