Editorial: Why studios are backing out of Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con
Another major studio has chosen to bite the dust when it comes to making a big Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con.
According to The Wrap, this year it's 20th Century Fox who has chosen to bow out of the preceedings, and it's not because they don't have a wealth of films they could easily roll out to generate some friendly fan buzz in the months ahead. It's because they have lost control over how that material is circulated... and they don't want to play by this new set of Wild West rules anymore.
Amidst concerns of piracy getting specially-cut trailers and exclusive footage outside of the walls of Hall H, Fox is opting out, choosing to take part in smaller events for movies like TROLLS over what they've been a part of in the past, which, this year, might have included early looks at ASSASSIN'S CREED, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and perhaps even ALIEN: COVENANT.
And the fact of the matter is that we as fans have no one to blame for this but ourselves.
While there are plenty of people who attend Comic-Con and other conventions throughout the year and are perfectly fine with following the rules laid out for them in order to take part in seeing the privileged goodies that studios are willing to share at the event, there are more than a few who are not. These are the same people who are ready to hop on Reddit and spoil details of a movie they got into an advance screening of simply to brag "First!" and the ones who are quick to upload bootleg footage to their YouTube accounts with the quickness, so they can feel validated by all the likes and comments they're receiving, thus justifying the very thing they did. And because they feel that need to broadcast something that was only meant for them to the outside world, via Twitter or Periscope or now Facebook Live or whatever means they have at their disposal, simply because now they've can, the studios aren't willing to oblige with those who flaunt their disrespect for respectful requests.
Studios don't have to come to Comic-Con anymore. In many cases, it's done them more harm than good over the years. They've taken films inside the echo chamber and come out believing they're going to be giant hits due the reactions they've received in Hall H, only to find out that the mainstream audiences didn't feel the same way at the box office. Does SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD ring a bell? What about COWBOYS AND ALIENS? They didn't exactly set the world on fire, following their positive SDCC experiences (SCOTT PILGRIM probably deserved better but it just didn't happen).
In addition, due to fans' crazed frenzy for awesomeness all the time, the bars of expectation have been set way too high, setting the studios up for failure when they aren't able to provide it in spades. Fans can be great when they see something they really dig or have a preconceived notion that they'll like on... but the flip side of that coin is the vicious ravaging they're quick to dish out when they see something that doesn't meet their lofty standards. That damage can torpedo a movie before anyone has really had a chance to see it, and the studio is left to throw more money at the marketing in the hopes of salvaging the movie and overcoming the negative perceptions that fans are typically reluctant to let go of.
Remember FANTASTIC FOUR, speaking of a Fox film in recent history? How early in the process did fans decide that was something they were going to hate, all because of a leaked Doctor Doom set pic? How quickly did fans start bashing the most recent X-MEN movies, all because they didn't like the way Quicksilver's costume looked in a photoshoot or how Apocalypse's outfit was designed? That left Fox working twice as hard to heal the beating of those two projects delivered by fans.
If there is a risk of that type of backlash to what you're prepared to bring to the Comic-Con table, then why even bother showing up? Why put your blockbusters in jeopardy, with so much money tied up in their hopeful successes, when you can control what you show over time throughout your promotional campaign under more favorable circumstances? Or, in the case of Disney... when you can hold your own events that are big enough to be on par with SDCC.
They have the D23 Expo, where they see all the financial benefit of fans buying tickets to gain access to everything they put forth, unlike Comic-Con where they have to buy-in to showcase their future product, or their own Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase announcements, which is the film industry's equivalent to Apple unveiling its new products - they only reveal what they are comfortable with the public knowing (be it film titles, logos or trailers), and that's good enough. There isn't a demand for something special or something more. Those in attendance are satisfied with what they get, and it's more about the communal experience of sharing a similar passion with fellow fans than it is about feeling entitled to something unique that you can then rush to tweet about before everyone else.
In the past, studios were willing to play ball with the fans, believing their enthusiasm and excitement was the end that justified the means. However, as of late, they've been really examining the situation at Comic-Con and, channeling Timothy Olyphant in THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, have begun asking themselves "Is the juice worth the squeeze?"
With Fox's decision to bow out of this year's Comic-Con, they've sent their message that no, it is indeed not.
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