Sony has abandoned plans to release Spider-Man 4 in summer 2011 and will reboot the franchise a year later following the departure of Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire.

The development follows recent reports that production delays had pushed back the original May 6 2011 release date – a prestigious slot that was quickly filled by Paramount/Marvel’s Thor, which commenced principal photography today [January 11].

Today it emerged that Sam Raimi was leaving the franchise because he felt he would not be able to come up with a suitable screenplay in time for a summer 2011 release.

The franchise has grossed more than $2.5bn worldwide since it launched in May 2002 with what was at the time a record North American weekend opening of $114.8m that currently ranks as the sixth highest in history.

In a statement issued today Sony said it and Marvel Studios would move forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt, adding that Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin would put together a “new cast and film-making team.” Sony must keep developing ideas for the franchise or else it risks losing the rights to Disney/Marvel.

“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,” Sony’s co-chairman Amy Pascal said. “We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter’s [Parker] roots…”

Raimi added: “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.”

Raimi is understood to be looking at an adaptation based on the World Of Warcraft online gaming phenomenon.