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Upcoming 'Spider-Man' installment put on hold

Peter Parker can catch all sorts of villains in his webs, but the one thing Spider-Man couldn't bring to Sony Pictures was a workable script — and budget — for the $2.5 billion franchise's fourth installment, derailing one of the most lucrative movie series in Hollywood history.

Less than a week after the studio said it was postponing production on the fourth web-slinger movie over story problems, Sony this week pulled the plug on the project as it was being conceived with director Sam Raimi after he told the studio he wasn't comfortable moving forward with the sequel, originally scheduled for release in May 2011.

Star Tobey Maguire, who has played the arachnid superhero in the previous three "Spider-Man" films, is also bowing out, as is his on-screen love interest, Kirsten Dunst.

The studio said it would hire a new star and director and re-boot the movie as a story about Parker's early life as a "teenager grappling with contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises." Because Sony is essentially starting from scratch, the studio has pushed the picture's release to 2012.

The resulting film is expected to be far less costly than the production Raimi had envisioned for his version. Sony wanted to make the picture for about $230 million, which the director thought was not enough given his ambitions.

"'Spider-Man' will always be an important franchise for Sony Pictures and a fresh start like this is a responsibility that we all take very seriously," Sony Chairman Michael Lynton said in a prepared statement. "We have always believed that story comes first and story guides the direction of these films."

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