Even Spider-Man’s webs were not strong enough to hold Sony and Disney together.
After months of negotiations over the terms of their partnership on that film franchise, Sony announced on Tuesday that Kevin Feige, who helped steer Disney’s Marvel Studios and its “Avengers” series to immense global success, will no longer play a role in the next live-action “Spider-Man” movie starring Tom Holland.
The news alarmed fans of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” who fear that future big-screen installments of the linked superhero stories would be weakened or even thrown into plot chaos without friendly relations between Sony, which owns the film rights to Spider-Man, and Disney, which owns the rest of the Avengers. Could the M.C.U. go on without your friendly neighborhood web-slinger?
Sony put the onus for Mr. Feige’s departure squarely on Disney. “We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer,” the company said on Twitter.
The news comes after Disney had pushed for better financial terms from Sony, which purchased movie rights to Spider-Man before Disney bought Marvel Comics and its intellectual property.
Before the movies starring Mr. Holland as the teenage superhero in the Avengers universe, two previous Sony series, featuring Tobey Maguire and, later, Andrew Garfield, existed in a time and place with no mention of Captain America, Iron-Man, Thor, the Hulk or other characters who became a global phenomenon for Marvel and Disney in 23 movies over 11 years, with $22 billion in ticket sales.
After some of those characters ended their arcs in “Avengers: Endgame” this year, fans pinned their hopes for future story lines on the hints found in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which raked in $1.1 billion this summer. The film positioned Spider-Man as an heir to the Avengers mantle.
But there were already signs that the future of the Marvel Universe would not rest solely on Spidey’s shoulders. In July, Marvel Studios unveiled the next phase of its plans, including a collection of movies and TV shows featuring Thor, Doctor Strange, Black Widow and other popular characters, but no Spider-Man.
Under an expiring agreement, Disney received a small percentage of the box office revenue in return for lending creative assistance on the Holland movies. Sony shouldered the production costs. In negotiations in recent months, Disney pushed for a much greater percentage of the revenue in exchange for paying a share of the production costs. Sony’s statement on Tuesday confirmed a Deadline report about Mr. Feige’s departure from the series.
Further complicating the web of rights, Disney controls Spider-Man merchandising. The more successful the films are, the bigger the toy sales.
The high stakes of those discussions were underscored this week after Sony announced that “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which was produced by Mr. Feige and the former Sony chairwoman, Amy Pascal, had surpassed the James Bond movie “Skyfall” as the studio’s top-grossing film of all time since opening July 2. (Sony also scored a hit with the Oscar-winning animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which does not take place in the M.C.U.).
News of the split raised concerns among some fans who feared that it could damage both the Spider-Man and Marvel Universe franchises, which have become intertwined since Sony and Marvel announced the Spider-Man partnership in 2015.
“Take away Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe suddenly becomes chillier, more invested in cosmic spectacle than heart,” Adam White, a culture reporter for The Independent, wrote on Wednesday.
Since the two businesses joined forces, Mr. Holland has appeared as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
Fans and followers rallied around the Twitter hashtag #SaveSpidey, which was trending on Wednesday, to call on Sony and Disney to reunite.
Jeremy Renner, who played Hawkeye in the “Avengers” series, wrote about the split online on Tuesday, saying in an Instagram post addressed to Sony that “we want Spider-Man back.”
Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.