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Captive audience at Comic-Con

Jolie, Ferrell kick off opening day of mega event

Comic-Con’s organizers like to stress that Hollywood’s presence is overly hyped and its schedule of movie and TV panels represent just a small part of the fanboy fest. That opinion may finally change this year.

Even without the inclusion of Summit Entertainment’s “Twilight” (which changed the face of the convention over the past two years with a major shot of estrogen of all ages), hundreds still camped out overnight to be let into Hall H, the San Diego Convention Center’s largest room and where studios host their back-to-back panels.

By 9 a.m., an hour before DreamWorks Animation kicked off the first day of the confab to promote “Megamind,” the line for Hall H had grown to several thousands and stretched well past the convention entrance to the waterfront street and in front of the Hilton hotel (whose entire side is covered in a massive banner for “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). Two hours in line still didn’t warrant access into the hall, testing the patience of many — some even in costume as Kick-Ass, Deadpool or Green Lantern.

It was a startling reminder of Comic-Con’s increasing growth over the years and how its 126,000 attendees have forced organizers to consider seeking a larger home. In the past, attendees could choose which film panels they wanted to see, but the masses trying to enter Hall H have changed that, with many of those waiting in line just looking to park themselves in the room that seats 6,000 throughout the entire day. That’s good news for studios seeking a captive audience for the exclusive footage they screen and the talent they make travel to San Diego to promote those films.

But it can also dampen some of the enthusiasm for the rest of the crowd for films they may not care about. Thursday’s panels went over well, however, with attendees enamored with the assembled cast of action movie icons for Lionsgate’s “The Expendables” all on one stage together, and Summit’s offbeat actioner “RED,” which both included Bruce Willis.

But it was “RED” co-stars Helen Mirren (a Comic-Con newbie), Mary-Louise Parker and Karl Urban who stole the show, working the crowd for laughs.

Mirren worried she’d be fired from the production when she demonstrated how badly she runs. She added that it’s difficult to look tough while firing a gun. “Your natural response is to pull a funny face, or stick out your tongue or close your eyes.”

“RED,” by the way, stands for Retired: Extremely Dangerous.

DreamWorks Animation, which made its first ever showing at the confab this year, succeeded in selling its superhero toon “Megamind.”

With Will Ferrell (in blue paint, wearing a homemade costume), Tina Fey, Jonah Hill (and a cardboard cutout of Brad Pitt in a tuxedo) on stage, the panel was mostly witty banter. The audience did turn on the thesps, however, when they were about to explain the twist on Hill’s character and those in Hall H didn’t want to hear it, marking one of the rare moments when the Comic-Con contingent didn’t want to be let in on a secret.

The panel continued Hollywood’s promotion of 3D at the Con, with Real D’s 3D glasses handed out to attendees. “I didn’t actually have glasses on,” said Ferrell after “Megamind” footage was shown. “But I huffed so much paint putting the costume on that I could still see it. It was actually triple what you guys saw.”

With its superhero plot and characters, Comic-Con proved a perfect fit for the DreamWorks’ toon and continued the studio’s focus on producing big press events at events like Cannes or Tribeca, where it can make a big splash and generate instant coverage from a large media gathering.

Disney used its following panel to make news with Guillermo del Toro’s plans to produce a bigscreen version of its “Haunted Mansion” theme park attraction, and played a 3D greeting of Johnny Depp in character as Captain Jack Sparrow from the set of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

Those came after “Tron: Legacy’s” third showing at the Con, with helmer Joseph Kosinski unspooling eight minutes of the 3D pic and a new trailer, which were both well-received. Some fatigue is starting to set in around “Tron’s” threepeat appearance at the show. “We will show five minutes of ‘Tron: Legacy’ every year for the next 10 years,” quipped Patton Oswalt, who returned as the Disney panel’s moderator.

But the audience didn’t mind — especially when Kosinski got the thousands in the room to yell phrases like “Disk! Wars!” and “Rinz! Ler!” while stomping their feet so that the film’s sound team from Skywalker Sound could add to the final pic.

And Disney was able to leave one key message with fans: That its creators approve of the final product. “This proves to me that some things, good things, take a really long time to happen,” said Steven Lisberger, writer and director of the 1982 “Tron.”

Sony attempted to give its actioner “Salt,” which opens today, a final high-profile promotional push with Angelina Jolie taking the stage to answer a series of questions from fans and show off more footage. Jolie has been a big draw at the Con in the past.

The studio turned to the Con to unveil the first footage of its epic alien-invasion pic “Battle: Los Angeles.” Film, helmed by Jonathan Liebesman, resembles a war-based videogame with its visuals — a point the director said was intentional.

“The movie does feel like ‘Modern Warfare’ and ‘Halo,’ but I love that stuff,” he said. So did the crowd he was showing the footage to.

Sony will host a separate panel for “Green Hornet” today. That pic is being heavily hyped with sign-age around town and a pop-up garage showing off the Black Beauty limousine from the film.

Universal, which has a major presence with its “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” based on the comicbook and starring the nerd-friendly Michael Cera, wrapped up Thursday’s panels by surprising auds with a free screening of the film at local theaters.

The studio is also hosting an event of carnival-like activities, backed by partners like gamemaker Electronic Arts, to promote the film across the street from the convention center.

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