Comic-Con hits the ground running

'Twilight,' 'Game of Thrones' highlight opening day of fanboy confab

Though Disney and Warner Bros. aren’t doing major presentations and staples like “Twilight” are winding down with their final installments, Thursday’s opening of Comic-Con saw the fanboy confab bursting beyond its Convention Center digs, fueled by an ever-growing TV presence and marketers’ desire to find some breathing room for the projects they’re touting.

The throngs of attendees that pack the show floor have made it increasingly difficult to approach booths and look at anything on display, so more studios and networks have presentations outside the San Diego Convention Center this year.

Comedy Central has an outdoor “South Park” fan-of-the-year experience for the series’ 15th season with mini-games, food trucks and photo ops. Sony has parked one of the futuristic police cruisers from

“Total Recall” (branded by automaker partner Dodge) across the street from the convention center, along with robots from the sci-fi remake. The parking lot next to the Petco Park baseball stadium featured props and footage from films like DreamWorks’ “Real Steel,” New Line’s “Final Destination 5” and Relativity’s “Shark Night 3D” plus Fox’s “Terra Nova” TV series. A massive Smurf balloon, touting the Sony film, loomed over the lot.

Comic-Con’s value for Hollywood remains its ability to gather diehard fans and whip up frenzy for ongoing franchises and new tentpoles.

Thursday morning brought an early screening of Marvel and Paramount’s “Captain America” at the Regal Theater downtown, with four auditoriums packed with fans. Reflecting the pic’s WWII period vibe, the San Diego State dance team did a vintage USO-girls routine before star Chris Evans, who made no remarks at the movie’s Tuesday-night premiere in Hollywood, popped in to introduce the first public showings of the film.

“I know it’s been a superhero summer,” Evans said. “But I think we’ve got something special.”

Inside, the Con’s show floor was packed almost instantly after doors opened at 9:30 a.m., with attendees eager to buy exclusive toys and other merchandise. The day’s presentations kicked off in Hall H with Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” panel.

Some Twi-hards had camped since Tuesday to see stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, and the cast members rewarded fans for their zeal by serving up muffins and fruit.

After footage of Edward and Bella’s wedding and honeymoon was shown, the stars praised director Bill Condon’s approach, particularly his handling of the grisly birth scene that follows. “The birth scene is so different from everything else in the movie,” Pattinson said. “For a fantasy series it goes quite far. It’s hardcore, it’s graphic. There’s no other way to do it. It was fun.”

Fox used its Hall H presentation to promote “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “In Time” and “Prometheus.”

Panel host Damon Lindelof screened the first footage shown to moviegoers of “Prometheus,” and helmer Ridley Scott — appearing via a satellite feed alongside Noomi Rapace from the set in Iceland — made clear his ambition for the film. “Of course what I want to do is scare the living shit out of you,” he said.

Regarding any overlap between the new film and the “Alien” universe and other sci-fi films, Scott said he continues to push for original visions. “Robots and androids and replicants are no longer unique,” he said. “You have to come up with unique notions to keep them fresh.”

“In Time” helmer-scribe Andrew Niccol, reflecting the film’s theme of aging, said, “If you like ‘Gattaca,’ it’s the child of ‘Gattaca.’?” Pic’s stars, Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, were on the panel, marking their first visit to Comic-Con.

During FilmDistrict’s first-ever Comic-Con panel for the company (promoting “Drive” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”), Guillermo del Toro took the stage as a producer of “Dark” to support newcomer Tory Dixey.

He recently tapped another tyro helmer in Hollywood, Andres Muschietti, to helm “Mama,” and said the infusion of fresh talent is essential. “The worst thing that can happen to the genre is if it’s the same voices over and over again,” he observed.

Beyond the tubthumping sessions for films, the increased influence of television at the Con was in evidence Thursday.

USA Network touted a trio of series, “Burn Notice: Fall of Sam Axe,” “Covert Affairs” and “Psych.”

Meanwhile, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” had its own panel in Ballroom 20. Author George R.R. Martin, who moderated the panel, addressed one of the distinguishing marks of the tomes and series: the sense that even central characters aren’t guaranteed to make it to the final act.

“I want the readers to be almost afraid to turn the page, not knowing who’s going to live and who’s going to die,” Martin said. To avoid that is to “not involve your emotions, and that’s not what I’m looking for.”

Cabler Syfy has reopened its Cafe Diem restaurant inside the Hard Rock Hotel for a third year, serving up diner food.

NBC has set up a makeshift Playboy Club to promote the new fall series that bears the club’s name. ABC had folks in flight-attendant garb handing out travel bags to push “Pan Am.”

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