Whether you know it or not — and they’ve put a lot of money and effort into making sure you don’t know it — Sony is in dire straits right now.
As they have for the past twenty years, Sony has put most of it’s cinematic investments into Spider-Man. They’ve got No Way Home coming out at the end of the year, though most consider that a Marvel/Disney picture. There’s the Venom sequel supposedly coming out in October, but we’re getting a lot of contradictory reports about another possible delay. And then of course there’s Morbius, a film about a Spider-Man character nobody knows about, played by an actor nobody likes, and it got dumped in January 2022 without fanfare. Yikes.
More importantly, despite Sony’s best efforts at rewriting history and gaslighting everyone into thinking they invented the character, Spider-Man is still property of Marvel. The only reason Sony still has any stake in the character is because of some convoluted and arcane rights-sharing scheme that everyone has long since lost patience with. Marvel and Disney are only getting more money and popular goodwill, leaving Sony with increasingly less leverage every time they have to renegotiate the contracts.
Then there’s James Bond. With a reported budget somewhere around $300 million, No Time to Die ranks as the fifth most expensive movie ever made. And that’s before the money they spent promoting however many release dates have come and gone.
By some recent estimates, No Time to Die needs $900 million at the box office just to break even. To put that in perspective, the highest-grossing movie of 2021 so far is Hi, Mom, making $848 million in China without an international release. (Bitch all you want about how Hollywood is stuck up China’s ass — and I have — but those numbers don’t lie.) A distant second is F9: The Fast Saga with a worldwide take of just over $700 million. No Time to Die is practically guaranteed to lose money at this point, it’s just a matter of how much.
More importantly, Sony doesn’t completely own James Bond either — they share the rights with MGM. And the two companies will have to renegotiate their contracts in the immediate future, given that Daniel Craig will be hanging it up after this movie and they’ll need to find a replacement. The big difference is that this time, Sony won’t be dealing with a washed-up studio on the perpetual verge of bankruptcy, they’ll be dealing with goddamn Amazon. Again, this means that Sony will have a lot less leverage.
(EDIT: I’ve since been informed that Sony has already given up all stake in the James Bond franchise, and No Time to Die is entirely on MGM.)
Then we have Sony Pictures Animation. Next to the upcoming Into the Spider-Verse sequel (see: Spider-Man, above), their biggest tentpole is the upcoming Hotel Transylvania: Transformania. Which just got sold to Amazon. And all their other most recent releases were Netflix exclusives. Not that Netflix or Amazon have any technical stake in Sony Pictures Animation, but the studio is good as dead without those streamers at this point, and everyone involved is smart enough to know it.
Jumanji turned out to be a surprisingly lucrative franchise, but its future is currently unknown. The pandemic threw the next sequel’s development into uncertainty, and Dwayne Johnson is busy stretching himself thin acting and producing in umpteen other big projects.
That just leaves Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Trouble is, the promotion for that movie is all over the place, and the studio never found a marketing hook. This gives the impression that Sony has no idea what they’ve got, which isn’t a good look after they so publicly and pathetically mishandled the Paul Feig reboot. This is the last, best hope for Sony to turn a profit on a franchise they own wholesale, and they have no idea what to do with it.
It’s extremely unlikely that Ghostbusters: Afterlife will be a billion-dollar hit. But even if it was, taking all the other aforementioned factors into consideration, it may only delay the inevitable.
At this point, Sony can keep on losing money while haggling with so many other corporations; or they can sell all their film holdings and focus on being an electronics company.
Sony has no reason to keep this going, and they’ll have even less reason after they lose tens of millions on No Time to Die. Spider-Man will go back to Marvel wholesale, Amazon will buy James Bond outright, the Jumanji franchise will finally die, Sony Pictures Animation will probably get bought out by Netflix, and Ghostbusters and all the rest will hopefully go to someone who appreciates them.
And all of us — including and especially Sony — will be better off for it.