A recent trailer for Marvel Studio's upcoming superhero sequel Spider-Man: Far From Home reveals an apparent rift in the space-time continuum, allowing characters from alternate realities -- aka other versions of Earth -- to cross over into our dimension. If that claim uttered by Jake Gyllenhaal's character Mysterio winds up being true, then it could open the door for Sony to merge their current blockbuster MCU version of Spider-Man with their successful Venom series.
We all know Sony is itching to bring Spider-Man and Venom face to face again. I say "again" since we all know the studio previously pushed the two characters together in Spider-Man 3 back in 2007, to massive box office results even if the film itself suffered mixed reviews and negative assessments of Venom's portrayal. This time, however, Venom has a more comic-faithful appearance and personality, and the alien symbiote's solo movie scored $855 million, ahead of all Spider-Man franchise entries except Spider-Man 3 (which, as noted, also featured Venom) and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
So the prospect of the two popular box office brands meeting up has Sony seeing green, for good reason. If a cinematic confrontation between Spidey and Venom comes to fruition, the payoff could be enormous. Obviously there would be a third main character to serve as the "real" villain (my guess is Kraven the Hunter, lured to the city to hunt one of the heroes, but then deciding to track and kill both of them), for Spider-Man and Venom to team up against after they've fought one another for a while. If this summer's Spider-Man: Far From Home delivers $900+ million results (as I expect it will), and if Venom 2 is also able to improve upon the first film's receipts, then a team-up could haul in something approaching $1+ billion.
Sony relies heavily on the Spider-Man IP for their film revenue, as I explained in a previous article. Maximizing that revenue stream, then, is important, especially if Sony is going to wind up sold to another larger company in the next couple of years as I expect will happen. And regardless of what I or anyone else think about the prospects of bringing the current film iteration of Venom into the MCU, there's no denying a crossover with Spider-Man would send ticket sales through the roof.
My aforementioned previous article notes how Sony could accomplish this goal while keeping the MCU version of Spidey out of the crossover, by introducing a live-action version of Miles Morales (the main character from Sony's Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse last year) instead of using Peter Parker for a Venom team-up.
I still think that's the best hypothetical longterm way for Sony to have their cake and eat it too with regard to multiple versions of Spider-Man on screen without mucking up the MCU side of things (since that's a golden goose right now and the studio would ideally avoid forcing it to fit into a larger, riskier plan so soon after a successful rebooting of the Spidey franchise). However, it's also undeniable that in a shortened financial timeline where the rights to the Spider-Man properties will revert back to Marvel free of charge when Sony Pictures is bought by another corporation, there is less time for a plan that maximizes the potential of both Spider-Man and Venom in the broadest and most lucrative longterm way. Instead, cashing in with shorter-term plays that rake in the most money in the quickest way, and positioning Sony into a stronger bargaining position to convince Marvel to negotiate a deal with Sony prior to the sale of Sony Pictures (i.e. to push Marvel to buy back the Spidey rights before those rights just revert for free), might be the approach Sony and the franchises' producers opt for.
Marvel's own position, though, is strengthened by the fact Sony's value is heavily tied into the Spider-Man IP, so the studio's selling price will of course change in direct relation to how big the Spider-world movies are compared against all of the rest of Sony's slate of productions and IP. In other words, by making Spider-Man too oversized in Sony's box office portfolio, Sony risks creating even starker contrast between those films and Sony's other properties, which means any buyer can point to this glaring discrepancy and use it to push down Sony's selling price. In that situation, then, Sony's negotiating position has to be focused on the value of their larger catalogue of content, from Sony Classics to their syndicated TV shows, which are of enormous value to any streaming service. But that also means the sale of the studio becomes inherently propped up by their past, in a direct acknowledgment of lack of broader cinematic success in the future.
Which is why the best time for Sony to sell is in the next couple of years -- after Far From Home, Morbius, and Venom 2 have released, but before other Spider-Man movies and spinoffs arrive. This way, Sony gets a maximum short-term box office value for the characters and generates a high asking price from Marvel for a buy-back of the rights, while keeping the total number of Spider-Man films and tie-ins to the minimum while retaining the potential to push several more into production on short notice and cash in bigger if Marvel declines a buy-back.
Meanwhile, the strength of Sony's other releases through 2019 and 2020 further strengthens their position for a sell by the end of this window. Men In Black, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Angry Birds Movie 2, Zombieland 2: Double Tap, Charlie's Angels, a Jumanji sequel, Little Women, Masters of the Universe, Bad Boys for Life, Peter Rabbit 2, a Ghostbusters sequel, Monster Hunter, Hotel Transylvania 4, and a few other releases that should combine for a healthy pile of cash during that same time frame and fleshes out Sony's modern film slate nicely in the short-term.
Thus the maximum short-term potential for Spider-Man properties and for Sony's reputation and balance between their revenue streams, while retaining additional potential for additional exploitation of Spider-Man properties. That's why Sony needs to sell sometimes during the next two years, while they are making good money from their full slate yet retaining potential in the future that looks attractive and makes a buyer more eager to close the deal fast. And this also sets up the best potential for Marvel to agree to a deal for the Spider-Man IP sooner rather than later.
And this all circles back to why Spider-Man and Venom might cross over in a film that uses the MCU version of Spider-Man. If we are talking about short-term outcomes instead of longterm, then using the MCU's Peter Parker in a Venom team-up looks more lucrative than introducing Miles Morales for a one-shot team-up appearance. And that means Marvel has to decide whether they'd want to pay an even higher price to grab the Spider-Man rights back asap, to stop Sony from blending the MCU Spidey with the separate Venom franchise, which could throw a monkey wrench into any Marvel plans to introduce the alien symbiote in a more comic-faithful manner within Spider-Man's series.
One option would be to produce a Spider-Man movie loosely adapting the comic book miniseries "Secret Wars," with several MCU heroes appearing alongside Spidey, and pitting them against a collection of villains that includes characters pulled into the MCU from alternate realities -- and thus Venom could be drawn onto the side of the baddies, while eventually switching sides during a final confrontation. That would allow the symbiote to jump from Eddie to Peter in a manner similar to the original "Secret Wars" comic book storyline, yet still make good use of the characters established in the solo Venom movie.
Heck, what if Eddie winds up dumped back in New York City after the "Secret Wars" events, and that's why he later comes after Peter and tries to steal back the symbiote, and so on? It could be a way to merge the franchises and still also redirect the storyline into one closer to the comics, and maybe closer to something the MCU can use going forward.
But that's just spitballing on my part, and I doubt anything I suggest by way of a story is going to wind up among Marvel's or Sony's plans. My real point is that Sony has options, including ways to bring Spidey and Venom together for monster-sized profits and cinematic payoff, while not ruining the potential for Marvel to use the characters the way they want down the road. With several options in their pocket, and several advantageous outcomes to choose from, the ball will largely be in Marvel's court when it comes to negotiating the future status of the Spider-Man characters. I suspect we'll hear news relatively soon on this front, so stay tuned.