Comic-Con and Video Piracy: Enter at Your Own Risk

Fans and Hollywood converged on the San Diego waterfront for another weekend of pop culture revelry as the event’s 46th edition came to a satisfying, if slightly controversial, end on Sunday.

Mega film and TV franchises like “Star Wars,” “Game of Thrones” and “Batman v Superman” electrified fanboys and fangirls with new footage, star-studded Q&As and even a few memorable selfies. But some of Hall H’s never-before-seen, exclusive clips quickly leaked online to the frustration of studios, despite the event’s strict “no filming” policy.

On the surface, millions of fan impressions might seems like a good thing, but the materials in question often feature temporary VFX, while some of the featured panelists haven’t even wrapped filming.

Warner Bros. chief of marketing Sue Kroll rebuked the cellphone violators over the weekend, calling the “Suicide Squad” leaks “damaging” in a statement and said the content was solely intended for the 6,500 people in Hall H.

“Our presentation yesterday was designed to be experienced in that room, on those big screens,” she explained.

The “Suicide Squad” teaser was ultimately posted to YouTube on Monday “with regret.” Kroll justified the reversal by saying, “We cannot continue to allow the film to be represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our presentation.”

It’s easier for certain projects that are farther along — Warner Bros. released the new “Batman v Superman” trailer shortly after Saturday’s Hall H panel. The clip has already reached 17 million views. Last year, WB faced a similar piracy conflict when bootleggers recorded the “Batman v Superman” footage at Comic-Con while the film was still in post-production.

The question is whether studios will dial back the exclusive footage next year.

“No, it doesn’t hurt,” one exec said of the Comic-Con leaks. “The downside would be if it wasn’t good.”

Ryan Reynolds, whose new film “Deadpool” received some of the biggest buzz this year, in addition to WB’s “Suicide Squad,” told Variety backstage that it was actually a pirated “Deadpool” test video that helped get the movie made.

“It was never meant for anyone’s eyes except studio executives,” he said of the footage, which fans overwhelming endorsed online. “Somehow (it) made its way on to the Internet and that’s the gift from God for us.”

A few weeks later, 20th Century Fox announced the X-Man spinoff movie and set a Feb. 12, 2016, release date.

A  Fox insider told Variety that “Deadpool’s” Comic-Con footage, along with that of “X-Men: Apocalypse” would not be made available online, while conceding that the views for the pirated clips were “extraordinary.”

Reynolds wrote on Twitter that an official “Deadpool” trailer would be coming in three weeks, when additional VFX work has been completed.

While other studios acknowledged the problem of the leaks (“It will have an effect, absolutely,” noted one exec), the consensus was that modern technology poses a risk for everyone.

“I would suspect that a studio would not bring anything down that they wouldn’t be prepared to have leaked,” one observer said of Periscope and other mobile threats facing the industry.

Started in 1970, Comic-Con has become crucial promotion event for Hollywood in recent years, with stars and talent traveling from around the world to promote their films and TV shows. According to organizers, this year’s convention drew an estimated 136,000 attendees and generated an estimated $136 million in revenue.

Last week, Comic-Con renewed its deal to stay at the San Diego Convention Center through 2018.

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