The reality of Comic-Con as a movie publicity event: it's been waning for years. The show peaked for the studios about five years ago, when every player in town was bringing every movie to Hall H. Comic-Con went from the place to supplicate yourself before the geek core audience and became the place to enter your movie into the pop culture mainstream. But it's become crowded, it's become difficult logistically and, most of all, it's become expensive for the studios with no real sense that SDCC marketing makes a serious impact on their films. Yes, 300 blew up out of Comic-Con but Scott Pilgrim didn't. There are more Scott Pilgrim stories - movies that were buzz machines at the con but didn't end up performing in the wild - than 300 stories.
Beyond these issues one other problem has plagued Comic-Con since the exact moment when it peaked - the proliferation of smart phones with excellent cameras. I've been going to SDCC long enough to remember a time when people who wanted to pirate Hall H footage had to have an actual video camera. Now they can hold their phone discreetly and captured 4K footage. And boy do they ever - it seems as if half the people in Hall H are only there to get videos up on YouTube. What had been an exciting and communal - and special - experience has turned into yet another grab at viral infamy. Be the guy who got the footage of Wolverine in that preview!
This, Fox says, is why they're skipping Hall H at Comic-Con 2016. They're simply afraid of piracy. Is that true? I'm not 100% sure, but I will tell you that this is a helluva year for them to skip. They have some beautiful Assassin's Creed footage that they showed at CinemaCon a few weeks ago that would blow Hall H away. They will have been shooting on Alien: Covenant long enough to have some kind of a reel to share. They could make announcements about the future of the X-Movies, with maybe a big Deadpool 2 reveal or a first look at Wolverine 3. They have War For the Planet of the Apes coming next year, and will probably have stuff they could show. But instead they'll just be doing small events for movies like the animated film Trolls.
It feels like a major blow. Other studios have skipped in the past - Paramount has sat out a few times at this point - but Fox has a heavy geek slate, and they're one of the only players in Hollywood with real superhero franchises. When studios have skipped in the past they just simply didn't have enough stuff to show to make it worth spending all the money. Fox has a good line-up that would blow the roof off Hall H... and they're still staying home.
Rumor has it that Disney is considering the same. I think that's the real nail in SDCC's coffin when it comes to movie publicity, as Disney has some of the biggest and most fan-anticipated franchises going. And it makes sense that they would skip - they already have D23 and Star Wars Celebration as their fan events, and they're fan events that actually make money for the studio, as opposed to spending it at SDCC. Right now D23 is every two years, but don't be surprised if it goes annual. God knows there's enough Marvel and live action animation adaptations alone to make an annual D23 make sense. Or perhaps they could keep D23 biannual and add a Marvel Studios Con alongside Star Wars Celebration, and time it out so that one happens every year. If Disney launched MarvelCon that would really pull the rug out from under SDCC.
The winner in all this? Warner Bros, who really need good news. They started production on Justice League with a whimper, thanks to the catastrophic reviews for and soft performance of Batman v Superman. With a less crowded SDCC they have a chance to really wow the crowd with their upcoming DC stuff. To be fair, WB usually does a totally kick-ass presentation at the convention, but their production is often better than their content. This year they should be showing off the Justcie League's costumes and a whole bunch of Wonder Woman stuff, maybe even breaking some news about Affleck's Batman movie.
If the DC movies actually start to work, WB should consider going the Disney route. Make money on your fan events, don't sink it all into SDCC. There's no reason DCCon couldn't compete with MarvelCon.