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The multi-billion-dollar mistake: Sony’s refusal to buy marvel characters at $25 MN



The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most successful film franchises in history. Years ago, Sony could have purchased the entire Marvel character cast. According to the Wall Street Journal, Marvel Entertainment made an offer to Sony during the original Spider-Man talks. 

Yair Landau, a young Sony Pictures executive, was tasked with acquiring the theatrical screen rights to Spider-Man in 1998. Marvel had just been in bankruptcy for two years when this happened. The American comics business had nearly collapsed in the 1990s. Marvel Entertainment, a well-known company in the comic-book world at the time, had only just begun pursuing film partnerships. Sony, he countered, could get practically every Marvel character’s movie rights for $25 million. In hindsight, that was a huge mistake, but hindsight is 20/20.

Spider- Man was sold to Sony for merely $10 million-plus 5% of any film’s gross earnings. This was a bargain that Perlmutter despised, but the ink was dry, and it was time to go on. Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr., would be the film. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was born as a result of this. 

Blade, X-Men, and Spiderman’s 1-2 punch ushered in a new era of filmmaking. In 2012 and 2014, Sony attempted to reboot Spider-Man. Both films were box office and critical disappointments. The blood in the water was detected by Marvel mega-boss Kevin Feige, who was now in charge of the entire operation under Disney’s supervision.

In the end, Sony and Marvel agreed upon a joint custody arrangement. The box office profits went to Sony, while the toy revenue went to Marvel. And the rest, as they say, is cinematic history.