Sony to reboot franchise with high school story

Columbia Pictures has pulled the plug on “Spider Man 4″ and will instead make a younger, cheaper installment of the superhero franchise.

Star Tobey Maguire and helmer Sam Raimi, who were both set for big paydays for “Spider Man 4,” will no longer be involved in the franchise as Col moves forward with a high school-aged Peter Parker pic, which will bow theatrically in summer 2012.

Last week, Columbia confirmed that “Spider Man 4,” which was scheduled to begin lensing in February and be released in 2011, was on hold indefinitely due to script problems. Columbia needs to continue actively developing “Spider Man” films or else the property will revert back to Disney/Marvel.

The studio has long prepared for the contingency of “Spider Man 4″ falling apart and already has a James Vanderbilt-penned script about a teenage Peter Parker ready to shoot. That film, which has no director or star attached, is now in preproduction. The new version will likely cost far less than a “Spider Man 4″ given that Columbia, which has a mandate not to give away more than 25% of the gross, won’t be paying the high salaries or gross points to returning talent.

The new untitled Spider Man film will center on the webslinging teen as he grapples with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises. Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin are producing.

Studio co-chairman Amy Pascal said Col has “a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise.” She added, “We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter’s roots.”

Raimi, who disagreed with the studio about the direction “Spider Man 4″ should move, has expressed no hard feelings. “While we were looking forward to doing a fourth one together, the studio and Marvel have a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, and I know they will do a terrific job,” he said.

The studio plans to hire a new helmer and a star in the coming weeks.

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