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'Spider-Man 3' Only Three Years Away

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Keep that spandex handy, Tobey Maguire: “Spider-Man 2” may not be ready to hit theaters until this July 2, but Sony Pictures and Marvel Enterprises are already gearing up for “Spider-Man 3,” reports Reuters.

Speaking to financial analysts and reporters on a conference call, Marvel’s film chief Avi Arad said of “Spider-Man 3” that the “best-case scenario I can tell you (is) 2006. It is a big movie, and we would rather play it safe and talk about 2007 at this point.”

On Wednesday, a Sony Pictures spokesman confirmed that the two companies had already put the wheels in motion for a third screen adventure for the comic-book hero, but declined to offer further details.

“Spider-Man 2,” starring Maguire, 28, as the wall-climbing crime-fighter, is the sequel to “Spider-Man” the highest-grossing film of 2002. The original racked up more than $800 million in worldwide ticket sales, and it still holds the box-office record for the biggest three-day domestic debut ever with $115 million in ticket sales.

Meanwhile, despite the motions to move ahead, Sony and Marvel remain locked in a bitter litigation over their original “Spider-Man” collaboration, with Marvel having sued Sony Pictures in February 2003, seeking at least $50 million in compensatory damages and termination of their joint “Spider-Man” licensing venture.

A court-appointed referee is expected to settle the skirmish this fall.

In the case, Marvel accuses Sony of trying to hijack the Spider-Man brand by claiming exclusive merchandising rights to the character and “cross-promoting” the superhero with other Sony features in alleged violation of their partnership.

Sony counters that Marvel sought to cheat the studio out of millions of dollars through questionable accounting practices and was using its litigation as leverage to pressure the studio into renegotiating the terms of their licensing deal, reports Reuters.