How Venom & Carnage’s Movie Rights Work (Will They Return To Marvel?)

Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Venom: Let There be Carnage.

The ending of Venom: Let There Be Carnage shows Eddie and venom being transported to the MCU through mysterious means, but does that mean Marvel and Disney have required Sony’s film rights for the character? Marvel’s movie rights are a complicated web of licensing deals that can be difficult to decipher, and while most of the major Avengers characters now exist under the Disney umbrella, a few still lie with Sony. But how exactly do Sony’s rights for Venom, Carnage, and their other characters work, and what does it mean for the future of the MCU?

Prior to the company’s acquisition by Disney and subsequent rise as the dominant brand in contemporary pop culture, Marvel Comics had frequent financial struggles. Those low points led to licensing deals for some of its major characters, including Spider-Man and the X-Men, which made sense since, at the time, Marvel had no real way of producing big-budget films. The characters whose movie rights were previously held by Fox – including Wolverine, Magneto, and the Fantastic Four – reverted to Marvel Studios after Disney’s purchase of the company. Sony, however, has remained independent and kept the rights to its various Spider-Man characters through the 21st century.

Related: Venom 2 Cast Guide: Every Let There Be Carnage Character Explained

Obviously, the most valuable asset in Sony’s menagerie of stray Marvel characters is Spider-Man himself, but the company also holds various heroes and villains legally tied to the overall Spider-Man franchise, such as Venom, Carnage, Shriek, Morbius, and Kraven the Hunter. Those characters are starting to form the foundation of Sony’s own Spider-Man cinematic universe, but with Venom now joining Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU, the whole situation has gotten muddled. Here’s how Sony and Marvel’s licensing deals actually work, and what they mean for Venom in the MCU.

Sony owns the movie rights to the Spider-Man franchise. That means that Peter Parker, Uncle Ben and Aunt May fall under their cinematic jurisdiction, along with any supporting comics characters whose primary affiliation is with Spider-Man. Because of how much intermingling goes on in the Marvel comics, it can be tricky to tell exactly which characters count as Spider-Man characters vs. Avengers, X-Men, etc. But it generally covers villains and sidekicks for the wallcrawler, including Venom, Carnage, Morbius, Kraven, Spider-Gwen, and Miles Morales. Reports have also revealed plans for future Sony films featuring characters like Madame Web, Nightwatch, Jackpot, Spider-Woman, and Spider-Man’s Sinister Six villains.

Under the terms of Sony’s Spider-Man licensing agreement with Marvel, the company will retain the film rights to the franchise’s character forever, as long as they release a film using them every five to six years. That’s the reason Spider-Man movies have been rebooted so often – so that Sony can hold onto the rights. If the company lapsed in that requirement and stopped making Spider-Man movies, Marvel and Disney would reclaim the character rights for the big screen.

What that means, effectively, is that Sony will hold the Spider-Man rights forever, unless one of a few things happens. Disney could purchase Sony as they did Fox, and thereby retake the rights to the Spider-Man characters. Disney could also make an offer to buy the rights back, though that would have likely happened already if Sony and Marvel were able to agree on a sum. Past reports claim that Sony has set the price at $10 billion – more than double what Disney paid for Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise. And lastly, Sony could simply stop making Spider-Man movies, allowing the character rights to lapse to Marvel. But given Spider-Man’s MCU success and immense popularity, none of those things are likely to happen anytime soon.

Related: Marvel's Iron Man, Spider-Man & Avengers Rights Lawsuit Explained

So, if Sony isn’t losing the Spider-Man character rights anytime soon, how is Venom joining the MCU? Venom 2’s post-credits scene clearly shows Eddie being transported to the MCU, as Holland’s Spider-Man is shown on the TV as J. K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson is heard speaking in the background. The crossover is likely due to a very similar deal to the one that allowed Spider-Man himself to join the MCU – a temporary licensing agreement that effectively loans the characters to Marvel while keeping the main rights at Sony. But what does that mean for Venom’s cinematic future?

Right now, the answer isn’t entirely clear. While the post-credits scene teases a big crossover in the future, it doesn’t offer any explanation as to what form that will take. In the wake of the release of Let There Be Carnage, neither Marvel nor Sony have revealed what exactly the ending of Venom 2 is setting up, but rumors and suspicious Marvel social media posts have hinted that Venom will most likely appear as one of the multiverse villains in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Could Hardy’s Venom stick around in the franchise after No Way Home and appear in more core MCU movies? That will depend on the exact nature and length of Sony’s licensing deal with Marvel, neither of which has been publicly revealed.

Now that Venom is joining Spider-Man in the MCU, many may wonder if there’s a possibility of Sony’s Spider-Man universe and the MCU becoming one giant intermingled franchise. If Sony is willing to license out its biggest characters, it stands to reason that there could be opportunities for Morbius to meet Blade, Kraven to encounter the Avengers, and so on. But will those sorts of crossovers really happen?

In more one-off instances, possibly. The new MCU multiverse has opened the door for all kinds of crossovers that don’t require a long-term merging of canons or realities. Jared Leto’s Morbius could show up through a portal, for instance, feature in an MCU movie or two, then leave. Because it’s happening with Venom, that kind of intermingling is likely to continue into the future. However, a full-scale merger of the two universes probably wouldn’t be in either company’s best interests. Sony has planned out years of its own universe, and the MCU’s upcoming movies and shows stretch nearly to the horizon. Both studios are focused on developing their own brands, but the ending of Venom: Let There Be Carnage does create some exciting possibilities for more licensed cameos and crossovers going forward.

Next: What Happened To Eddie At The End of Venom: Let There Be Carnage

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