This story first appeared in the July 19, 2017 issue of Variety.
In 2014, the studio planned to have “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” launch a series of spinoff films focused on super-villains such as the Green Goblin, Venom and other members of the Sinister Six. However, those plans were put on ice when the sequel disappointed at the box office.
With the success of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a reboot of the series that sends Tom Holland as the wall-crawler back to high school, Sony is revisiting its ambitions to create a Spidey-verse. The new film grossed nearly $260 million worldwide in its opening weekend. Sony has already announced a “Venom” stand-alone film, with Tom Hardy playing the super-villain, and is in preproduction on “Silver & Black,” which will pair Black Cat, a jewel thief, with Silver Sable, a mercenary.
As the studio looks beyond “Homecoming,” Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch has been immersing himself in the “Spider-Man” comic books and boning up on the backstories of Peter Parker’s various costumed adversaries. The studio has licensed the “Spider-Man” comics from Marvel since the early aughts — it’s a pact that includes rights to roughly 900 characters. “With the Sony universe of Marvel characters, our mission is only to do what’s the absolute best for each individual property,” says Panitch. “I just want to honor the original DNA.”
Ever since Marvel showed the potential of interconnected cinematic universes by having Iron Man, Hulk and other characters team up for Avengers missions before spinning off on individual adventures, other studios have scrambled to come up with their own in-house iterations. Results are mixed. DC Comics’ “Justice League” movies have racked up impressive grosses, but others, such as Universal’s Dark Universe franchise of monster stories, have gotten mashed.
Marvel has empowered Kevin Feige to oversee its film output, while Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy calls the shots on the “Star Wars” movies. Sony is going in a different direction. The studio isn’t tasking any single exec or producer with building the web of “Spider-Man” characters. Instead, it wants each picture…