Comic-Con 2011: Hints at 'Spider-Man', 'Twilight' & 'Cowboys & Aliens'
We're now 37 days until Comic-Con 2011 kicks off down in sunny San Diego this July. As many readers know, Comic-Con is one of my favorite times of the year, as I pretty much go crazy with excitement covering all of the presentations for five days straight. The official schedule should be announced next week, but in the meantime, we've been starting to hear some buzz about what to expect and it's looking both good and bad. Given that 2012 is a pretty big year for fanboy movies, we can expect big ones like The Amazing Spider-Man, but a recent NY Times article about marketing claims some studios are staying away entirely.
First up, we know for certain that The Amazing Spider-Man will have a big presence, and other films we know for sure will show up are Fright Night and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. It was also announced by Hero Complex and Jon Favreau that Cowboys & Aliens will be having its "world premiere" there. As in, that means Favreau wants to show the movie in its entirety to the fans for the first time at the Con (don't know details, but we've heard maybe at Petco Park). Favreau said: "That's where it all started, and I want to give back… They should have the opportunity to see it first." I couldn't agree more, I'll definitely be there!
As for the NY Times article, it started up a massive debate (mostly on twitter) as they claim due to the box office "failure" of fan-oriented movies like Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Tron Legacy and even Sucker Punch, that movie studios aren't going as all out as they once used to. I have a few problems with the article, not only with the fact that it's inaccurate (it says DreamWorks/Disney has nothing, but we know for certain Fright Night, a DreamWorks movie, has a panel on Friday), but they're missing the point as to why the marketing at Comic-Con doesn't have as much an impact as it possibly should. Here's their opening:
"In summers past, Warner Brothers used Comic-Con International, the premiere convention for comic book, science fiction and fantasy fans, as a marketing platform for movies like Sherlock Holmes, 300 and Sucker Punch.
Walt Disney Studios staged Tron: Legacy stunts there three years in a row. Last July, DreamWorks Animation paraded Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and other members of the Megamind cast through the convention.
This year? Warner's main studio operation is bringing nothing. Ditto Disney and DreamWorks. The Weinstein Company, a perennial presence, will also sit this one out. Even Marvel Entertainment, whose panel for The Avengers was a highlight of Comic-Con 2010, is on the fence about whether it will mount a major presentation.
Now don't get too alarmed by this news, we're pretty damn sure The Avengers will be there in some fashion, even if it's just viral marketing or posters given out on the showfloor at the Marvel booth. If Marvel Studios (and Kevin Feige is smart enough to know this) doesn't bring The Avengers, as others have said, it'll be perceived as a bad sign and fans will pick up on that. I would say the same about The Dark Knight Rises or Man of Steel, as Zack Snyder has been a Comic-Con regular for years now, but I think Warner Bros is actually backing out this year, as those two movies (both due later half of 2012) have barely started shooting and don't nearly have enough work done yet to take a break and fly to San Diego to show footage.
Other confirmed movies with appearances (and here's where things get good again) are: Paramount's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, perhaps with Steven Spielberg and/or Peter Jackson (maybe live from The Hobbit set?); Fox's Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Tarsem's Immortals and James McTeigue's The Raven, plus David R. Ellis's Shark Night 3-D from Relativity; Lionsgate with something, they weren't specific, perhaps The Expendables 2 (has that shot anything yet?); and, finally, the worst news of all: Summit Entertainment will stage a panel for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1. Please let it be first in the morning so the Twilight fans can be in peace! Otherwise it'll be mayhem.
That's the speculated list from NY Times, but of course anything could change, and who knows what will be on the official schedule when it's announced. In the meantime, to get back into the marketing side of things, the Times also quickly addresses the problem with the failure of those aforementioned movies, and hints at Comic-Con not being the place its always been cracked up to be. Here's how they quickly sum things up:
"Warner got burned with Sucker Punch, which had fans vibrating with excitement in July but failed in its March release. The millions that Disney spent on Tron: Legacy at Comic-Con had a less-than-fantastic payoff. A stunt involving video of attendees trapped in coffins made a splash for Lionsgate’s Buried, but the film sold just $1 million in tickets when it opened two months later."
"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was the big alarm. That Universal movie was the belle of last year’s convention, and the studio spent heavily to make it so, draping the entire side of a skyscraper with an ad, for instance. Released just three weeks after the convention, Scott Pilgrim fizzled and the $60 million movie sold just $32 million in tickets."
My issue with the way they're framing this is that Hollywood is always too quick put the blame all on one incident. If the movie fails, that doesn't necessarily mean the marketing at Comic-Con also failed. Scott Pilgrim had great marketing at Comic-Con, but it failed in theaters for other reasons. I believe that Tron Legacy only made the $172 million it did because people actually saw it and/or heard how mediocre it was, and it lost all that momentum it had built up (at places like Comic-Con), which was unfortunate. But the Comic-Con buzz it had initially built was great - that's not to blame. There are other issues that attributed to the way these movies performed at the box office, and it's too simple to blame Comic-Con on the whole.
That said, I still do think Comic-Con isn't really the place to make every movie explode. However, there are many examples of it working successful - District 9 being a great, recent example. It's all about doing it effectively and whether it's a right fit and if the build-up is perfect for it (has enough footage been shot, has enough not been teased previously for successful buzz here). Whether or not The Dark Knight Rises shows up at Comic-Con 2011 won't affect the massive amount its going to make at the box office, but if they had enough shot, they could start the buzz then and also be fine. It can really go either way and it's all about if now is the proper time and place to unveil it. It's also not going to hurt if they wait until Nolan is ready.
No matter what shows up at Comic-Con 2011, I'm sure I'll have a blast, and I'm sure there will be plenty to cover and plenty to talk about. As always, I am very interested to see what the studios do and how they act, as this may turn out to be a very formative year. "Comic-Con, as a growing number of movie marketers are realizing, has turned into a treacherous place. Studios come seeking buzz, but the Comic-Con effect can be more negative than positive." No need to make it seem like such a dangerous place, goodness! Honestly, if you know how to do it right, Comic-Con can be a great experience, even if you're working there (like I am).