Rejoice, comic book movie fans -- Spider-Man is swinging back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Sony Pictures and Marvel/Disney announced a deal late Monday night in which the next installment of Sony's $4 billion Spider-Man franchise will be co-produced by Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige along with Sony's Amy Pascal for a July 28, 2017, release.
But first, Spidey will appear in an unspecified upcoming Marvel film. Andrew Garfield, who played Peter Parker/Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man" and its sequel, is not expected to return to the role.
According to the release, other characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, may also be integrated into future Spider-Man movies. Though the characters have interacted in Marvel's comic books for decades, they've been segregated in the movies because of various licensing agreements that predated the explosion of superhero movies.
"I am thrilled to team with my friends at Sony Pictures along with Amy Pascal to produce the next Spider-Man movie," said Feige. "Amy has been deeply involved in the realization on film of one of the world's most beloved characters. Marvel's involvement will hopefully deliver the creative continuity and authenticity that fans demand from the MCU. I am equally excited for the opportunity to have Spider-Man appear in the MCU, something which both we at Marvel, and fans alike, have been looking forward to for years."
Pascal, in the wake of the Sony hack, recently announced her transition from co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment to the head of a new production venture at the studio.
The Spider-Man pact is a significant partnership between rival studios Disney, who owns Marvel, and Sony, who holds rights to the Marvel-created Spider-Man character. Sony has launched two franchises on Spider-Man's back, with Sam Raimi's three films starring Tobey Maguire, followed by Marc Webb's reboot with Garfield for two films.
Meanwhile 20th Century Fox retains rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, both of which have new films in the pipeline ("X-Men: Apocalypse" and a new "Fantastic Four" reboot, respectively). Though those characters are just as important as Spider-Man in the comics, they'll remain separate in the movies -- for now, at least.
Rumors of a partnership between Disney and Sony over Spider-Man have been circulating for months.
"This is the right decision for the franchise, for our business, for Marvel, and for the fans," said Sony Chairman Michael Lynton.
"Spider-Man is one of Marvel's great characters, beloved around the world. We're thrilled to work with Sony Pictures to bring the iconic web-slinger into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which opens up fantastic new opportunities for storytelling and franchise building," Walt Disney Studios Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.
Marvel's meticulously calibrated schedule, announced back in October, has also been altered by the new partnership.
"Thor: Ragnarok," originally scheduled for July 28, 2017, will hit theaters Nov. 3, 2017. "Black Panther" will debut on July 6, 2018, back from its Nov. 3, 2017, release; "Captain Marvel" is set for a Nov. 2, 2018, release; and "Inhumans" will now debut in theaters July 12, 2019.
"Avengers: Infinity War Part 1" and "Avengers: Infinity War Part 2" will still be released on May 4, 2018, and May 3, 2019, respectively.