For film fans, buying an early ticket to Comic-Con — before Hollywood locks in its presentations — can be a gamble.
The San Diego confab has been sold out since February, but it wasn’t until last week that the studios officially unveiled their plans and confab organizers unveiled the official schedule for the four-day event that kicks off July 21.
Most of the 130,000 fans expected to attend aren’t likely to be disappointed, though: Hollywood is again promising first looks at high-profile tentpoles still in production or about to start lensing. Their aim is to generate the kind of pre-release buzz that can help hype pics six months to a year before they bow.
Pics being tubthumped with early presentations include Sony’s “Spider-Man” and “Ghost Rider” reboots, Fox’s “Prometheus” and Legendary’s “Pacific Rim.”
Studios are also hoping the show gives late-summer releases like “Conan the Barbarian,” “Fright Night” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” a last-minute promo push that will get auds excited.
There are some notable omissions from the lineup, however.
Warner Bros. won’t be showing off footage for “The Dark Knight Rises.” The studio has never promoted a Batman pic at Comic-Con, and it is sitting out the event entirely this year. Disney is holding off on tubthumping “The Avengers,” “The Muppet” movie and its toons. DreamWorks Animation doesn’t have a major release to push; its panel for “Megamind” last year marked a rare showing for the studio at Comic-Con.
The Mouse House wants to hold on to its goods until the company hosts its own Comic-Con-like event, D23 Expo, to be held Aug. 19-21 at the Anaheim Convention Center. There Rich Ross will unveil the studio’s slate, including Marvel’s pics. Marvel, nonetheless, will still have a heavy presence on the Comic-Con show floor, and other stunts are in the works given that “Captain America: The First Avenger” invades theaters that weekend.
The other studios either don’t have ready the kind of footage that would generate the impact they want or, in some cases, feel that a presence at Comic-Con doesn’t boost ticket sales enough many months later to justify the effort. They fear a flock of negative tweets that will travel the world and force movie marketers to do damage control for the rest of their campaign.
Lukewarm panels for WB’s “Green Lantern,” “Sucker Punch,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Jonah Hex” didn’t help those pics. And while bringing “Watchmen” rallied the crowd, the fanboys’ excitement had little effect in terms of drawing in other moviegoers. U’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” was well received at the Con, but heavy promotion didn’t translate to big-ticket sales for that film, either.
Still, studios aren’t writing off Comic-Con. Marvel’s decision not to end the days of studio panels on Saturday with a presentation in Hall H — Comic-Con’s largest venue at 6,000 seats — has left the stage open for another film to take the spotlight. This year, Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” will round out the film panels.
And there are plenty of other films looking to take advantage of the attention Comic-Con generates for productions, with Hall H presentations, booths or other appearances.
• Disney won’t be a no-show entirely, presenting DreamWorks’ horror remake “Fright Night” with a panel and promo stunts.
• FilmDistrict is showing off actioner “Drive,” and thriller “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”
• Legendary chairman and fellow fanboy Thomas Tull will host the company’s first Comic-Con presentation to provide a very early look at “Pacific Rim,” “Seventh Son,” “Paradise Lost” and vidgame adaptation “Mass Effect,” although those films have yet to start production or have only recently been cast.
• Lionsgate will duke it out for attention with “Conan the Barbarian,” MMA fight film “Warrior,” actioner “Abduction,” and comedy “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.”
• WB may not have a panel in Hall H but sister division New Line will promote scarefest “Final Destination 5” with a cocktail party that includes filmmakers and talent.
• Paramount is focusing on its 3D toon “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” with a panel that will likely have Steven Spielberg on hand.
• With its swords-and-sandals actioner “Immortals,” Relativity is hoping for the same kind of payoff WB’s “300” got at Comic-Con. It also has Steven Soderbergh’s actioner “Haywire,” genre pics “The Raven” and “Shark Night 3D” on hand. While WB won’t be present with “Man of Steel,” Relativity can boast having Superman on its panel with Henry Cavill (who stars in “Immortals”).
• Sony easily has the biggest studio presence at the show with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” “30 Minutes or Less” and “Total Recall,” while Sony Pictures Animation will promote Aardman Animation’s “Arthur Christmas” and “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.”
• Sony’s Screen Gems will be taking horror pics “Underworld: Awakening” and “Attack the Block.”
• After injecting some estrogen into the mostly male-dominated confab, Summit is back for a fourth year with “Twilight,” whose “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” should have Twihards camped out for days again, given that the company’s Hall H panel is dedicated to the pic. Summit will also show off “The Three Musketeers” and alien invasion thriller “The Darkest Hour.”
• Twentieth Century Fox will promote its “Planet of the Apes” reboot, along with Andrew Niccol’s thriller “In Time” and Ridley Scott’s sci-fier “Prometheus,” tied to the “Aliens” franchise.
• Universal has one of Comic-Con’s biggest fanboys, Jon Favreau, eager to please with “Cowboys & Aliens,” which will host its world premiere from San Diego on July 23. Studio will also start tubthumping “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which is looking to attract the “Twilight” fanbase with Kristen Stewart on the panel.
“I owe fans at Comic-Con so much, and it is only right that they are the first people who will get to see ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ ” Favreau said. “It’s my small way of thanking them.”
• Separately, Francis Ford Coppola will present “Twixt” with his own panel, although the pic does not yet have distribution.
“I fondly recall meeting the Comic-Con audience years ago when I brought them my ‘Dracula’ film,” Coppola said. “That experience made me not want to miss this chance to return with ‘Twixt.’ “