Editorial: Hollywood Will Surprise Us at Comic-Con 2011

In Editorials/Opinions by Jeremy Rutz1 Comment

Hollywood Abandons Hall H.

That was the headline for many a week recently, as Dreamworks, Disney and Marvel all said they would not be following tradition and bringing their big movie reveals to Comic-Con’s fabled auditorium. And with that announcement, emotions among fans ranged from confused to disappointed to downright cheated. This is the place where 140,000 like-minded geeks go on an annual pilgrimage and immerse themselves in swag, celebrities and worldwide media attention. This is the place to where people travel thousands of miles, cross whole continents and into time zones on the other side of the world. This is the event for which fans save their vacation schedules and hard-earned spending cash.

This is San Diego Comic-Con.

If you understood any of that, then you no doubt could sympathize with people who felt the same thing. Maybe you were even one of those people. And if so, you have been asking yourself, “Why would Hollywood destroy the very thing they helped create?”

They haven’t.

They big news from that original headline was that Hollywood wasn’t seeing the returns on their marketing investment in the con. The articles singled out Disney, which shelled out three years worth of Comic-Con events for Tron:Legacy, including renovating a Gaslamp District building into Flynn’s Arcade, for a box office gross that was merely acceptable; and Universal for draping the Hilton Bayfront in Scott Pilgrim last year, hosting exclusive screenings for fans, but landing squarely in the red when it came to tallying the box office receipts.

But those articles were wrong. The arguments didn’t make sense. How could Hollywood walk away from all that media attention? Showing up for a panel and putting together a reel of dailies is cheap press and even cheaper when it comes to winning goodwill from the fans. And about those fans. 140,000 of them on the ground, millions following the blogs, watching highlights on their Xboxes and streaming to their PCs and iPads. The studios could spend a million on television ads and hope their target audience was tuned in that night, let alone wasn’t skipping commercials altogether. Or they could spend a fraction of that to hold a Q&A which would directly reach an attentive and eager mob.

Flash forward to this past week. When the official Comic-Con schedules were announced, everyone was breathing a sigh of relief that the articles might be wrong. For two solid days one would be hard pressed to find a big movie panel in Hall H that wasn’t worth the wait. Then Saturday came, and it was nearly the opposite, where there was barely one worth attending. And then after getting our hopes up that Hall H would be open on Sunday, Comic-Con fills it with television panels better suited for Ballroom 20. Could the warnings be right? Would Hollywood really pull out of Comic-Con and away from the fanbase who cheered and applauded them in years past?

It takes a second look at the schedule to start thinking something completely screwy is going on here. Why would organizers stack the deck the first two days and leave the schedule barren the last two, which are traditionally the most attended? Why is Kevin Smith’s annual “Evening With” spoken word panel ending early this year? And what reason would they keep Hall H open on Sunday only to close Ballroom 20, which was probably more appropriate for those panels anyway?

There’s likely two things happening here in concert. Yes, it’s probably true that Hollywood wasn’t getting the kind of return they would like for their investment into Comic-Con, so they’ve scaled back. This is because every studio this side of the Mississippi was competing for attendees’ mindshare, and likely people weren’t being reached throughout the noise of every offsite and buzzworthy event, of which there were several happening every hour of every day of the con. But Hollywood didn’t want to turn their back on a guaranteed audience, so what did they do? They decided to coordinate their efforts, not step on each other’s toes at the big dance. Why else would the con scale back their “official” offerings on what are traditionally the two busiest days of the show? Studios most likely worked directly with the show organizers to make their unofficial events an integrated part of the con and make sure they were well attended by the crowds.

There are reports that studios which were supposed to be sitting year’s show out are indeed planning big events.

  • FirstShowing.net reported Marvel will bring some impressive set pieces from The Avengers to the show floor, and there is talk of some S.H.I.E.L.D.presence at the con. Could you imagine S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives targeting unsuspecting attendees as Skrull? They also reported there might be an Avengers cast signing at the Marvel booth, and an Avengers teaser trailer shown. It would make total sense that Marvel would use Joss Whedon and Chris Hemsworth, who will be at the con for other panels.
  • THR reports Chris Evans is planning a military salute to the soldiers stationed in San Diego. NerdReactor reports there will be a special screening of Captain America with Evans and Hugo Weaving in attendance.
  • There’s also a rumor Dreamwork’s upcoming Real Steel, which is on official Comic-Con banners throughout the city despite not having an official panel, would set up a World Robot Boxing ring, possibly on Sunday in the closed Ballroom 20.
  • And we all know about the Cowboys & Aliens screening for 2000 lucky fans put on by Universal and director Jon Favreau.

Regardless of what it is that the studios have planned, it is evident show organizers worked around some pretty big surprises they and the studios would very much like everyone to attend. Keep checking for updates on these rumored events and other big news as its announced.