How's that? Film website Latino Review sat down with "The Amazing Spider-Man" producers Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach this past weekend to discuss the upcoming Spidey reboot as directed by Marc Webb ("(500) Days of Summer"), and during their conversation the duo revealed that Marvel Studios and Sony/Columbia had some early discussions of uniting the Marvel Manhattan skyline in one universe. How so? By including the Oscorp Tower (Harry Osborn being the CEO of Oscorp, who eventually turns into the Green Goblin villain from the 'Spider-Man' films) in "The Avengers" in the same Manhattan skyline that already included Stark Tower (Tony Stark, aka "Iron Man").
So what happened? Apparently by the time the Oscorp building was fully designed for "The Amazing Spider-Man" (by legendary production designer J. Michael Riva, who passed away this weekend), the digital skyline in "The Avengers" had already been rendered. In short, it was too late. And while it seems like this is news that only man-children who speak Klingon or own comic-book underoos would care about, it is interesting for the very fact that it's something Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures had agreed on.
One must remember, Marvel's characters and properties are scattered over several different movie studios. 20th Century Fox owns all mutant characters (which means all "X-Men" films and that entire world), Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Daredevil, and Deadpool. Sony/Columbia owns Spider-Man, Venom, and Ghost Rider and Marvel Studios essentially has the rest of all the major characters including the entire Avengers team, Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Power Pack, etc.
Now sharing the characters is almost a business impossibility. For example: Sony/Columbia owns the rights to the Spider-Man universe, spent gazillions of dollars for those rights and will never sell them over to Marvel even though with Marvel's successful run of comic book films, many fans would love them own everything and cross over and cross-pollinate their characters in any way they see fit. Because of the way rights work, this will likely never happen. It doesn't really behoove one studio to "lend" a character to another studio unless they're getting a significant chunk of the profits and even then a business deal like that, again, would likely be a contract impossibility/headache.
So, don't ever expect a Spider-Man and Avengers team-up film any time soon (or something like "Secret Wars," a classic storyline that included much of the A-list of the Marvel universe), but the fact that the studios are talking amongst themselves to possibly create these small unifying moments in their films is a promising little gesture. Maybe one day?