LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Marvel’s superhero films could be left without their most famous character after talks to “share” Spider-Man broke down between the Disney-owned studio and rival Sony, Hollywood media reported on Tuesday (Aug 20).

The Marvel movies have together grossed US$22 billion (S$30 billion) at the global box office, and British actor Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has become an increasingly central figure in the most lucrative franchise in film history.

But while the teen web-slinger has for decades been the “crown jewel” of the Marvel comic book empire on which the films are based, Sony owns the character’s movie rights.

He only began appearing in Marvel’s “cinematic universe” after an almost unprecedented, and still highly secretive, 2015 deal struck between the Hollywood giants, with the two studios co-producing and splitting profits across the films.

That partnership has now broken up following Disney and Sony’s failure to agree on financial terms for future films, multiple Hollywood media outlets said on Tuesday.

Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige – widely credited with the phenomenal boom in comic book movies of the past decade – will no longer produce Sony’s standalone Spider-Man films, according to Deadline, which broke the news.

This makes it “almost certain” that the character Spider-Man will be absent from crossover appearances in future Marvel films too, according to Hollywood Reporter journalist Graeme McMillan.

“Ultimately, this is far more of a problem for Marvel than it is for Sony,” he wrote, noting how Spider-Man had become “the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe” by the franchise’s most recent movie.

According to Deadline, Marvel parent Disney had wanted to significantly increase its financial stake in future Spider-Man films, while Sony refused to alter the existing terms.

In financial terms, Spider-Man is one of the most successful superheroes in movie history.

Holland’s iteration of Spider-Man has appeared in a total of five Marvel Studios and Sony films since the collaboration deal, which collectively grossed almost US$8 billion worldwide.

These span from his introduction in Captain America: Civil War (2016) to a starring role in the series’ most recent outing, Spider-Man: Far From Home. They also included Avengers: Endgame, the biggest-grossing movie of all time.

At Comic-Con last month, Marvel Studios set out a timeline of films and television shows scheduled for the next two years including new outings for popular characters Thor, Black Widow, Doctor Strange and Loki – but none featuring Spider-Man.

Sony last year produced an Oscar-winning Spider-Man animation separate from Marvel Studios’ domain, as well as a standalone film centred on popular Spider-Man villain Venom.

Neither Sony nor Disney has publicly commented on the reports.