To the list of long ago now vanished things that you could once do at the San Diego Comic Con – hang out with Jack Kirby at the El Cortez pool, party with S. Clay Wilson at the Hotel San Diego, get a hotel room the day before the show – you may soon be adding “See exclusive advance footage of major movies in Hall H.”
Sad but true! According to a report in The Wrap, Fox is fed up with all the exclusive content they show in Hall H being pirated almost before the seats are dry. Although every presentation in Hall H, the mecca of fandom, is preceded by a “Do not tape this or studios will stop coming” announcement, most people didn’t take it seriously.
They were wrong. Multiple sources told the Wrap that the decision was due to not wanting unfinished, early footage leaking out. Although a smaller presentation for the animated Trolls is still on the schedule, we’re being cruelly denied our Michael Fassbender fix:
Fox would likely have shown glimpses of “Assassins Creed,” the Michael Fassbender video game adaptation that wowed movie exhibitors at this year’s CinemaCon. An early first look at Hugh Jackman‘s “Wolverine 3” and the recently-delayed “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” were also possibilities.
The first individual added that Walt Disney was considering pulling out of their regular showcase inside the San Diego Convention Center’s grand hall as well, though a rep for Disney denied the claim. The studio would not disclose its Comic-Con plans.
Although Disney is playing coy here, they DID recently announce that 2017’s D23 Disney event will be held one week before the presumed date for San Diego that year.
Disney has been increasingly putting its big splashy announcements at its own D23 and Star Wars Celebrations events, although last year’s Force Awakens panel at SDCC, with JJ Abrams leading 6000 peopel to a free Star Wars concert on the ocean was one of the grandest events ever at San Diego. But that’s the direction Disney has been going for a while, and this would be a ding for Hall H.
Now you may be asking yourself, “Come ON! They wouldn’t put on a presentation for 6000 people if they didn’t know that the footage would leak right away!” And certainly some of the leaks are “accidentally on purpose.” However, Hall H got huge about 10 years ago, before things like Snapchat and Periscope and You Tube and Sociel Media made all media ubiquitous on all formats. There used to be bottles that you could keep genies in; those bottles lie in smashed shards on the shores of Social Media Beach now.
To my mind, the key phrase in the Wrap report is this one: “Assassins Creed,” the Michael Fassbender video game adaptation that wowed movie exhibitors at this year’s CinemaCon” – I’ve been expecting for the last few years that CinemaCon, which is only for theater owners, might pick up some of the buzz from SDCC. It’s for a much smaller crowd that isn’t as set on leaking footage that they could posisbly make money on, and much easier to control. And control is what studios want.
The truth is that San Diego and Hall H are too hard to control in today’s day and age. The more media we have, the more conrol everyone has to have. Bad buzz out of Hall H has singed many a project, and when the bad buzz inducing footage is shown on youtube it just magnifies the pre-awareness of doom.
Peter Sciretta at /Film argues that Fox’s move is not the right one:
20th Century Fox had some huge troubles last year at Comic-Con, with early footage being leaked online from those in attendance. Many people would be quick to point out that the leak of early Deadpool footage was instrumental in creating buzz for that underdog R-rated comic book movie which went on to do insane business at the box office. But that wasn’t the only footage pirated from last year’s Comic-Con. Nearly all the footage from every big movie in Hall H ended up online in some capacity. Warner Bros. was forced to release a high-quality version of the Suicide Squad trailer online even though the film was still in production. That film also seems to have benefited from advance buzz inspired by the Comic-Con appearance and trailer leak (we’ll see later this summer).
Sciretta goes on to cite other non footage stunst such as Tom Hiddleston in Loki costume, or Andrew Garfield dressing as Spider-man as events that can still make Hall H:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens showed up last year and blew the roof off of Hall H without showing exclusive early footage (they showed a behind-the-scenes piece which was available immediately online, and then held a surprise Star Wars concert by the water). Yes, that elaborate Star Wars concert was probably super costly, and not every studio or film could afford such a huge display, but that’s not the point. The point is that the number one way to win in Hall H is… fun surprises. Fans love fun surprises. It can be as little as an unplanned appearance, a cool interaction that was unexpected, an announcement of some sort, or yes, footage from a film that isn’t even finished shooting. But I think studios underestimate how much the element of surprise plays into the buzz from a Hall H presentation.
I’ve only been to a few Hall H presentations in recent years, but they are theater on a HUGE scale. While it’s not what I go to Con for, there is no denying that there’s a great deal of excitement in being inside the room and seeing something only a few people ever will. It is kinda once in a lifetime, if you’re a geek nerd.
While I’m not sure that Fox and Disney are making the right decision, I just don’t know. Up is down and black is white and the old ways are rarely feasible where marketing and promo are now. From Jack Kirby by the El Cortez Pool to Tom Hiddleston in his Loki costume, SDCC has always and will continue to evolve.
UPDATE: CCI released a statement on the matter:
As any fan of Comic-Con knows there are a great many things that go into making a great panel presentation. For television networks and movie studios sometimes that includes exclusive footage, and while we have been very diligent in trying to prevent footage from being leaked, the truth is today’s technology makes any guarantee difficult.
We are working with our friends at the different studios and networks in hopes of finding a remedy that will be beneficial to them, us and most importantly the fans who make Comic-Con the best convention of its kind in the world.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.