A new report reveals that Sony could have bought most of Marvel's major characters for a mere $25 million in 1998. However, the studio only had eyes for Spider-Man and declined the offer. While the deal looks like a steal now, Marvel didn't really have a whole lot to show for themselves on the big screen in the late 1990s and Sony really only wanted Spider-Man, which at the time seems wise. That deal must still echo around the halls now, after Marvel has become the cinematic juggernaut that it is today.
During the latter half of the 1990s, Marvel was trying to find homes for Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Thor, Black Panther, and more. So, when Sony President Yair Landau came asking about Spider-Man, Marvel thought that all of the characters under the same roof would be a lot better for the properties. Marvel's head Ike Perlmutter decided to counter-offer and offer up the rights to some of the biggest movie franchises in history for $25 million or $38 million in today's market.
Yair Landau had no interest at all in any of the other Marvel characters and only wanted Spider-Man, so he declined the offer. Landau recalls that he said something along the lines of, "Nobody gives a sh!t about any of the other Marvel characters. Go back and do a deal for only Spider-Man." The rest is history. Fox went on to release X-Men in 2000, which is still highly regarded today and started the superhero movie rush. Marvel waited a little while longer and put their toes in the water with Iron Man while Sony had some success with Spidey, it pales in comparison to what Marvel has built over the years.
Now, Sony and Marvel negotiate for Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other Marvel characters to appear in Sony movies. Marvel has tried to buy the rights to Spider-Man a few times over the years, but that isn't going to happen any time soon, especially after the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming. 20 years ago, Marvel was hardly a valuable commodity in the movie universe, but that would have been a wise investment by Sony, no matter what the climate was at the time.
That's not to say that Sony hasn't had success on their own. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy is still considered to be groundbreaking and it's their highest grossing franchise to date. Though it would be worth a lot more had they made a $25 million investment 20 years ago that retained the rights to some of the biggest characters in comic book movie history. Black Panther opens this week and is already expected to earn nearly $200 million in its opening weekend alone. You can read the rest of the article about Sony throwing away a winning lottery ticket over at The Wall Street Journal.