Update 3:30 PM PST: Here's the official word from Sony, confirming the story:

Culver City, CA (January 11, 2010)  --  Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012.

Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today they are moving forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt that focuses on a teenager dealing with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises. 

The new chapter in the Spider-Man franchise produced by Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will have a new cast and filmmaking team. Spider-Man 4  was to have been released in 2011, but had not yet gone into production.

“A decade ago we set out on this journey with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and together we made three Spider-Man films  that set a new bar for the genre.  When we began, no one ever imagined that we would make history at the box-office and now we have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise. Peter Parker as an ordinary young adult grappling with extraordinary powers has always been the foundation that has made this character so timeless and compelling for generations of fans. We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter's roots and we look forward to working once  again with Marvel Studios, Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin on this new beginning,” said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“Working on the Spider-Man movies was the experience of a lifetime for me.  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,” said Sam Raimi.

“We have had a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration and friendship with Sam and Tobey and they have given us their best for the better part of the last decade.This is a bittersweet moment for us because while it is hard to imagine Spider-Man in anyone else’s hands, I know that this was a day that was inevitable,” said Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, who has served as the studio’s chief production executive since the beginning of the franchise. “Now everything begins anew, and that’s got us all tremendously excited about what comes next.  Under the continuing supervision of Avi and Laura, we have a clear vision for the future of Spider-Man and can’t wait to share this exciting new direction with audiences in 2012.”

"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," said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures.  "We have always believed that story comes first and story guides the direction of these films. As we move onto the next chapter, we will stay true to that principle and will do so with the highest respect for the source material and the fans and moviegoers who deserve nothing but the best when it comes to bringing these stories and characters to life on the big screen."

The studio will have more news about Spider-Man in 2012 in the coming weeks as it prepares for production of the film.

And our original story, beginning here:

In a move that surprises absolutely no one who has been paying attention to recent developments, Sony has decided to simply reboot the "Spider-Man" franchise rather than continue to wrangle with Sam Raimi over creative choices on a "Spider-Man 4."

For many fans of the character, this is the best possible news.  Although the "Spider-Man" franchise so far has been wildly successful on a financial level and many people feel that "Spider-Man 2" in particular is an above-average example of superhero cinema, there has always been a vocal percentage of fandom that felt that Raimi and his collaborators missed in their take on the character.

The idea of Jamie Vanderbilt starting from scratch is exciting, because it opens up every single choice that's been made so far to reconsideration.  Personally, I hope that the Brian Bendis take on "Ultimate Spider-Man" is used as a template this time around.  As much as I enjoyed elements of Raimi's films, I think he missed my favorite thing about the character completely, and that's the sense of humor.  Bendis is probably the best modern-era Spider-Man writer precisely because he knows that Peter Parker uses his own overdrive sarcasm as one more defense mechanism, enraging his enemies by mocking them to their faces.  There was a moment involving the Kingpin in one of the Bendis issues that made me laugh so hard I had to stop reading, and there's nothing like that in any of the Raimi films.

Mike Fleming, who just left Variety to join Nikki Finke's Deadline site, broke the story today officially, and I suspect the studio will confirm very soon.  It sounds like they're now planning to move quickly so they can still make Summer 2011, and if that's the case, they'll have to start casting immediately.

One question is how much participation, if any, Marvel will have in steering this new reboot.  They're building a persuasive Marvel universe on film, and if there's ever been an opportunity to create a link between the Sony Spider-Man world and the world that Marvel is weaving with films like "Iron Man" and "Thor," this would be that moment.

Also, I would be willing to bet money that one of the major announcements we'll here in the days ahead is that the new "Spider-Man" will be shot with a 3D release in mind.  It's both inevitable and sort of brilliant.  Web-swinging through the canyons of New York in 3D will be an experience audiences will willingly pay for again and again if they pull it off convincingly.

I'm sorry for Tobey Maguire, who certainly worked his butt off as Spider-Man, but he's benefited enormously from his starring role in the mega-franchise, and I suspect he'll be just fine in a post-"Spider-Man" world.  The real question now is who they hire to direct and who's going to be suiting up as the Webhead this time around.  It's going to be exciting to see this new take on the beloved character come together, and we'll certainly do our best to bring you all the news right here at HitFix.

And let me be the first to say this name in public, folks:  Anton Yelchin.  He's been groomed for stardom the last few years, and in 2009, he was in both the "Terminator" and "Star Trek" reboots. He's the right age, he's great in a room, he's a real actor, and he's got charm to spare.

Suit him up and get shooting, Sony.

In the meantime, you can vote in our poll about who you'd want to see in the suit, or leave us a comment and tell us who we missed.

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