Disney (DIS) Could See Big Profits From Spiderman Merchandise

Box-office success of latest installment suggests merchandise sales opportunity

In a bit of welcome news for the beleaguered entertainment industry, Spider-Man: No Way Home, the latest movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), tore up the box-office this past weekend. According to reports, the movie collected $253 million at the domestic box office for the the highest debut of 2021. It also collected $334.2 million from overseas markets for total takings of $587.2 million, making it the third-best opening of all time behind Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War.

But The Walt Disney Company (DIS), which owns MCU, will probably not make a single penny from the latest Spiderman movie's box-office receipts. Instead, the company's source of profits from this Marvel venture will come from merchandise sales.

Key Takeaways

  • The latest installment in the Spiderman franchise is setting box-office records.
  • Disney does not profit from the from box-office receipts of Sony-produced Spiderman films but stands to gain from merchandise sales.
  • Typically, merchandise sales for Spiderman movies track box-office performance.

A Spidey Partnership 

Even though Spiderman is part of the Disney-owned MCU, movies featuring Peter Parker are produced by Sony Group Corp. (SONY). The Tokyo-based company purchased the rights to the web slinger back in 1999, when Marvel was an independent entity. As part of the purchase agreement, Marvel received 5% of the overall ticket sales from movies produced and distributed by Sony, while the two companies split merchandising revenue.

The terms of that partnership changed in 2011. Marvel had already been purchased by Disney in 2009. Sony, which was in dire need of cash in 2011, reworked the agreement and let go of its share of merchandising sales, while Disney forwent its share of box-office receipts.

Typically, merchandise sales for the Spiderman franchise have tracked box-office receipts. The more successful a Spiderman movie, the greater the sales of its merchandise. For example, merchandise sales totaled $397 million after the blockbuster release of Spiderman 3 in 2007. But they fell to $200 million after the unsuccessful debut of The Amazing Spiderman 2 in 2014. 

Even during times of flagging sales, Spiderman has been a money-spinner as far as merchandising is concerned. Global retail sales related to the action figure were estimated to be $1.3 billion annually by 2014, making Spiderman the most successful franchise.

The equation between merch sales and box office performance bodes well for Disney's profits from the latest installment of Spiderman. Its metaverse theme, which spans different timelines and characters, also provides many opportunities for licensing characters from different stages of the franchise, past and present. The House of Mouse was the world's top licensor in 2018, with $54.7 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise worldwide, according to License Global magazine.

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  1. New York Times. "'Spider-Man: No Way Home' Ensnares Audiences." Accessed Dec. 20, 2021.

  2. The Wall Street Journal. 'Spider-Man': A $175 Million Commercial For Disney Toys. Accessed Dec. 20, 2021.

  3. The Wall Street Journal. "'Spider-Man': A $175 Million Commercial for Disney Toys." Accessed Dec. 20, 2021.

  4. The Hollywood Reporter. "Disney Consumer Products Hits $54.7 Billion in Global Retail Sales." Accessed Dec. 20, 2021.