Comic-Con wows audiences, studios

'Iron Man 2,' 'New Moon' panels a big hit

SAN DIEGO — Hollywood left Comic-Con on a high note over the weekend as the first official footage shown of “Iron Man 2” generated a rousing reaction from thousands of fans.

It was the kind of response studios relish when showing off their upcoming pics at the annual confab in San Diego that has essentially become a ShoWest for the masses. Last year’s huddle lured 126,000.

Just getting into the cavernous Hall H at the city’s convention center proved an adventure for some of the 6,000 who filled the room and hadn’t already staked out their seats much earlier in the day.

Hundreds were turned away in the attempt to enter the room, especially those holding counterfeit studio passes. Things were so chaotic that Bob Layton, who helped transform the “Iron Man” books for Marvel into a top property, nearly didn’t make it inside.

“He almost didn’t get in,” said Robert Downey Jr. “That’s how twisted Comic-Con is.”

But Marvel and Par are beaming because of the response of those who did attend.

The two had already kicked off the week by launching their marketing campaign for the superhero sequel with a cover on Entertainment Weekly featuring the sequel’s cast. And the buzz generated from a montage from the film — which generated a standing ovation — guarantees the pic as a major player when it bows next summer.

“Iron Man 2” concluded four days in which studios mostly succeeded in hyping their films.

Overall, studios did well in selecting which pics would be pushed to the fanboys, opting to come with genre fare, vs. an odd mix of comedies as in other years.

“I wish you could take the energy here and bottle it and give it to Hollywood to drink,” said director Peter Jackson during his first appearance at the confab.

Only a few films — Warner Bros.’ “Jonah Hex,” Sony’s “Zombieland” and Screen Gems’ “Legion” — received lukewarm responses.

Disney’s “A Christmas Carol,” from Robert Zemeckis and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” couldn’t have played better, especially as they kicked off Comic-Con’s first 3-D screenings. Sequel “New Moon” brought back the screaming teens, tweens and “Twilight” moms, who were once again willing to camp out for days for any glimpse of the movie or its stars. And after years of hype, James Cameron satisfied the curious with more than 20 minutes from “Avatar.”

Odd no-shows were Disney’s “Prince of Persia” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” both from Jerry Bruckheimer. Universal Pictures also stayed home entirely.

First-time presenters at the Con included Tim Burton, Cameron Diaz, Gary Oldman and James Marsden. None suffered from the deer-in-headlights syndrome that’s plagued other celebs in the past.

Downey was easily the confab’s biggest showman, charming the Con not only with “Iron Man 2” but also helping Warner Bros. sell “Sherlock Holmes,” which bows Dec. 18, as a potential new franchise.

In fact, he spent more time onstage promoting that pic than his superhero sequel. His point was clear: that Sherlock Holmes isn’t stuffy, but “the first superhero.”

Studios clearly had a list of talking points:

  •  3-D isn’t just a gimmick anymore but a primary reason to head to the megaplex;

  •  the next installment of the “Twilight” franchise is in good hands with director Chris Weitz;

  •  New Line’s reboot of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” with Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy Krueger, is far scarier than previous installments in the franchise;

  •  “Where the Wild Things Are” has the approval of author Maurice Sendak; and

  •  Sony’s “District 9” is a thinking person’s alien movie.

Most of the points went over well.

As long as filmmakers seem genuine about their pics, they generally get the support of the fans in front of them, who spread the word to millions of others.It helps when someone like Downey says, “We worked our asses off on this, and took it very seriously and this is why we’re so proud” of “Sherlock Holmes.”

Much has been said over the years about the importance of respecting the geeks.

Jackson proved just how to do that last week when he took the time during Sony’s panel for “District 9” to update the crowd on “The Hobbit,” of which two films are planned.

He explained the intricacies of Hollywood’s development and casting process, of studio politics and the difficulty of getting movies made. It was a sincere explanation that had the crowd captivated.

That’s hard to do. But when it’s done the right way, you don’t just gain their loyal support, you get treated like a rock star and so does the film.

After a roar of applause erupted when footage of “Sherlock Holmes” was screened, Downey quipped: “Well, I guess that played all right.”

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