Fox, Par, Relativity skip Hall H; Universal up in the air

With Comic-Con a month away, Hollywood is firming up plans to haul its geek-friendly film fare to San Diego – though Paramount and 20th Century Fox have joined Relativity Media, DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation in skipping the Hall H panels this year, with Universal still up in the air.

Disney and Marvel will return, however, after sitting out Comic-Con last year in favor of the Mouse House’s own D23 fanfest. Having tubthumped “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” at Cons past, a look at “Iron Man 3,” which only recently began production, is firmly expected during the confab, which runs July 12-15. Disney is also sure to showcase toon “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” and possibly a presentation on “The Lone Ranger.”

Warner Bros. has reserved a three-hour block Saturday and is likely to anchor its presentation with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” out in December.

Plans include first-look footage from next summer’s “Man of Steel,” not a surprise given helmer Zack Snyder’s love for the Comic-Con crowd when he presented “300″ and “Watchmen” in previous years. On the other hand, the studio has never taken one of Christopher Nolan’s Batman pics to the Con, and there are no indications that this year will be any exception.

Sources tell Variety that Legendary Pictures plans to join distrib partner Warners with a preview of Guillermo del Toro’s tentpole “Pacific Rim,” though the studio would not confirm those plans.

Sony and the merged Lionsgate-Summit, meanwhile, are understood to be planning a presence inside the San Diego Convention Center’s biggest space.

Sony teased “Total Recall” last year, and may give Hall H an extended look at the Aug. 3 reboot next month. Although the studio has not confirmed any specific plans, it has several other Comic-Con possibilities in the pipeline, including bike-messenger actioner “Premium Rush” (Aug. 24); Kevin James martial-arts comedy “Here Comes the Boom” (Oct. 12) and the Will Smith post-apocalyptic sci-fier “After Earth” (June 2013), which just wrapped production. Studio is not expected to do anything involving “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which will opens July 3.

Summit’s “Twilight” franchise has never missed the show – which has had fans camping out annually to secure a seat in the same room with their beloved thesps – and they’re expected back for the Comic-Con finale. Lionsgate will bring “The Expendables 2″ to the Con, where Sylvester Stallone charmed the finicky masses two years ago.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Universal would show this year, though it does have the Dark Horse Comics property “R.I.P.D.,” which wrapped in January, to begin promoting ahead of its June 2013 release. If U chooses to participate, it could also draw crowds with “The Bourne Legacy” (Aug. 3) and its samurai epic “47 Ronin” (Feb. 8), which has yet to tip any images or clips.

Relativity Media brought three titles to Comic-Con last year, but won’t be back for 2012, as the studio has nothing on its slate that makes sense for the confab. DreamWorks Animation is eschewing the big hall in favor of a Thursday animation panel hosted by chief creative officer Bill Damaschke; toon studio is also presenting booths and other special events. Meanwhile, the live-action DreamWorks, whose fanboy-targeted “Robopocalypse” was recently pushed to a 2014 release date, is sitting out this year.

The absence of Fox and Par would leave quite a hole on opening day as both studios have traditionally held down Thursday slots. Paramount could still change its mind before the convention announces its full lineup in the coming weeks, but if no plan comes together, that means no Comic-Con push for its delayed “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” no sneaks of zombie apocalypse Brad Pitt vehicle “World War Z,” “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” Tom Cruise actioner “Jack Reacher,” and – in a development sure to disappoint the Con crowd – no first look at “Star Trek 2,” which has wrapped lensing.

Fox’s upcoming slate is light on fanboy fare, so the studio’s first absence since 2007 makes sense. It could have presented “The Watch” (July 27), “Taken 2″ (Oct. 5), “Life of Pi” (Nov. 21) or “A Good Day to Die Hard” (Feb. 14), but none of those pics are squarely genre-oriented enough for the studio to make the trip to San Diego. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” will already have bowed.

Though the Fox and Par movie divisions won’t have a Hall H presence, the TV side of Fox will be well represented elsewhere in the Convention Center – as is expected with all of the major studios. TV has all but overtaken movies as the driving force behind the confab – in large part because of the appetite for genre fare like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” – and with so much content exploding outside of Hall H, convention organizers are by no means worried about a few movie studio no-shows.

In the past, studios have opted not to present at Comic-Con when footage of R-rated films proved too risque for the more family-oriented crowd that has embraced the confab over the years. Organizers have limited studios from playing certain violent or graphic clips to appease the changing demo over the years. Comedies also haven’t played well with the 6,000 attendees that pack Hall H.

At the same time, studios are taking a closer look at their release schedules and choosing to present their goods at other Comic-Cons throughout the year, including San Francisco’s WonderCon (March), Chicago’s C2E2 (April) and New York Comic Con (October). Doing so has enabled studio marketers to spread out their campaigns and avoid being lost in the noise of promotional pushes the studios, TV networks, video game companies, not to mention toymakers and comicbook publishers unleash during Comic-Con’s four-day span.

Comic-Con is expected to attract more than 130,000 attendees.

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