UPDATED, 1:50 PM: “We do very much have the ambition about creating a bigger universe around Spider-Man. There are a number of scripts in the works” involving characters and villains in the series, Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Michael Lynton told analysts in a Q&A session wrapping up his operation’s first meeting with investors. But he didn’t offer details, except that Sony is “working closely with Marvel and Disney.” But lest fans of the Marvel world take that to mean that Spider-Man could finally join his buddies in an upcoming The Avengers or other Marvel/Disney film — think again. Sony’s longtime rights deal with Marvel for Spider-Man allows them to exploit any character within the superhero’s universe — including villains, girlfriends or even Aunt May. But Disney, which acquired Marvel in 2009, owns merchandising rights to Spider-Man and those related characters, so any further exploitation would have to involve Disney.
While Sony today promised to hold down costs, especially for films, Lynton says that “we have in no way shape or form lost our commitment to the movie business. The movie business sits at the heart and soul of the company.” And he wouldn’t feel constrained from approving a major project. “We never once found ourselves lacking for capital” when it comes to a needed investment including an acquisition. That also was true when Disney snagged Marvel. With theme parks and several cable channels, Disney has “a few more channels to exploit” the properties. “You have to measure it against that backdrop.”
Today’s session grew out of criticisms of Sony’s entertainment businesses made this summer by Third Point’s Daniel Loeb. And Sony execs said that it all turned out for the best. “It’s an opportunity to shed light on the business and where we think the business is going,” CEO Kazuo Hirai says. “That’s been a positive for us.” Lynton added that “we can always be more efficient. To have somebody intelligent make remarks is always helpful, especially when they’re a shareholder.” Loeb is an investor in Variety with Deadline’s parent company, PMC.
Related: Sony CEO: Entertainment Is “Crucial” To Company
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.