Watching This Week #104
An abbreviated newsletter with updated listings for March 20-26, 2023.
Find out where to watch the third film in the Tom Holland "Spider-Man" series in Canada.
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Spider-Man: No Way Home, the third in the "Home" series of Spider-Man films co-produced by Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures, starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Benedict Cumberbatch among others, was released in theatres on Friday, December 17, 2021, with preview screenings starting on the evening of Thursday the 16th.
Sony Pictures Canada's promotional website for the movie made clear that the new Spider-Man movie would be initally available "exclusively in movie theaters", and it remained that way for almost three months after this release.
However, the movie became available for digital purchase on March 15, 2022, and on physical media (DVD and Blu-Ray Disc) on April 12. As of Friday, July 15, it became available to stream in Canada on Prime Video, the Amazon streaming service.
There was no day-and-date streaming or on-demand release as there have been for some other Marvel Cinematic Universe films in 2021, and unlike other MCU films it will not be available on Disney+ for the foreseeable future because of the complications surrounding the film rights to the Spider-Man character. Read on for further explanation.
By the way, if you're looking for a movie you believe is titled "Spiderman No Way Home" or "Spider Man Homecoming 3" or "the Spider-Man / Doctor Strange movie" or something else along those lines, this is very likely what you're looking for. And yes, as common as the single-word version is, the official spelling of the name of Peter Parker's alter ego is the hyphenated "Spider-Man".
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now available for digital purchase and rental through Amazon's Prime Video Store, the Apple TV / iTunes Store, Cineplex Store, Google Play Movies & TV, Microsoft Movies & TV, and likely elsewhere starting at around $24.99 to purchase and $5.99 to rent, but varying slightly by retailer. (All prices in this article are in Canadian dollars before applicable sales taxes.)
The film has been available digitally since March 15, 2022, one week ahead of what Sony Pictures Canada had previously announced on February 23. (The linked post contains an indirect spoiler for the movie's plot so we won't be embedding it here.) A digital rental option became available on Tuesday, April 12.
To be clear here, Sony Pictures gets to call the shots on how this movie is distributed. Even though Spider-Man is a Marvel Comics character, and even though Marvel Studios has been heavily involved in producing the live-action Spider-Man films since Homecoming, the underlying movie rights to Spider-Man and related characters have been held by Sony Pictures Entertainment (parent of Columbia Pictures) since 1998.
Sony is reported to hold those rights in perpetuity provided the studio releases a new movie featuring the Spider-Man characters at least once every five years and nine months, regardless of any other transactions like The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Marvel in 2009.
Although Sony later reached an agreement to co-produce this particular set of films with Marvel Studios, Sony (through Columbia) retains the distribution rights, so it has the final say on when, and how, No Way Home will be distributed.
Why did it take so long for No Way Home to come to digital? The closest recent comparison we can point to is Venom: Let There Be Carnage, another film distributed by Sony about a Marvel character (though in that case only "in association with" Marvel, and only tangentially related to the MCU). That movie arrived in North American cinemas on October 1, and didn't become available as a premium video-on-demand (PVOD) rental until late November, after eight weekends of box office exclusivity.
Purely going by that timeline would suggest that Spider-Man: No Way Home could have become available for PVOD rental and/or purchase in North America on or around Friday, February 11. However, that date came and went without any update – and in the meantime the movie continued to perform very well at the box office, despite pandemic-related restrictions and hesitancies.
In any event, it's not usually in the studio's interest to publicize a digital release date weeks in advance, since that might encourage potential ticket buyers to hold off instead of going to cinemas.
In Canada, digital sales are starting at about $24.99 initially, but the price usually comes down over time.
Note: In this section, we're referring to the ability to stream or otherwise watch a piece of content through a monthly subscription service like Netflix, not via a one-time purchase as discussed in the section above.
First, some background information: the major movie studios generally have consistent arrangements in Canada for the streaming and/or TV rights to their new movies. For example, most Warner Bros. and Universal films stream first on Bell Media's Crave service a few months after theatrical release, while most films from Disney and its subsidiaries like Marvel now go directly to Disney+ on a similar timeline.
However, in the case of No Way Home, because of the film's distribution rights being held by Sony as discussed above, the streaming rights will fall under Sony's streaming output arrangements, not Disney's.
This means that, unlike the vast majority of other Marvel Studios films (but like all other live-action Spider-Man films, at least at this point) Spider-Man: No Way Home will not be available on Disney+ for the foreseeable future.
Instead, in Canada, No Way Home became available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on July 15, 2022, as announced in programming listings that Amazon sent to Canadian media outlets including WCIW in late June 2022.
As a reminder, Prime Video streaming is only available in Canada as part of an Amazon Prime membership, which, as of July 2022, costs $9.99 per month or $99.00 per year in Canada; however, a 30-day free trial for Amazon Prime is available for first-time subscribers in most parts of Canada.
We had previously estimated availability in June, based on other recent Sony films that have arrived on Prime Video for "free with Prime" streaming about six months after their theatrical releases, under a multi-year pay-1 contract that has been in effect since mid-2020 (prior to this, Crave had similar rights, which were in effect for the last few Spider-Man movies like Far From Home).
For example, the Sony movie Peter Rabbit 2 was released in North American theatres on June 11, 2021, but then became available to stream on Prime Video in Canada on December 9, almost exactly six months later.
Once these films become available for subscriber streaming on Prime Video, they films typically remain available there for a bit less than two years, before moving on to other streaming and broadcast homes, like Netflix, for shorter periods.
You may have come across an article about Sony Pictures' streaming rights in the United States – perhaps something like this, referring to how Starz currently holds first-window streaming rights to Sony films in the U.S. (including for films released in late 2021 like No Way Home), but noting that Netflix will be taking over these rights starting with 2022 releases, with second window rights going to Disney services like Disney+ or Hulu.
As far as we're aware from what Sony has announced, these deals only apply in the United States.
Unfortunately, many of these articles don't bother to look into the international picture, and assume what's happening in America will extend automatically to the rest of the world. In fact, these sorts of rights are typically sold separately by country or region.
And as discussed above, Amazon Prime Video currently holds the corresponding rights to new Sony movies in Canada under a multi-year agreement, although Netflix holds – and will likely continue to hold – second window Canadian rights to these films.
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