The comic/geek crowd are either the most important group to court for genre films or their influence is overstated; it really depends on who you ask. In recent years, the very vocal contingent has generally been thought of as essential to making sure more challenging or niche fare finds an audience or least makes its budget back, but a series of disappointments and flops have the studios reconsidering. Last year, Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" was met with widespread geek acclaim only for the Universal film to sputter at the box office (though to be fair, the marketing for that film did little to embrace anybody outside the core of fans). "Sucker Punch" got major buzz and died on the vine this past spring, while "Tron: Legacy" played modestly despite nerds flipping for footage that Disney teased as early as 2008 (though yes, it has done enough to convince the studio get a sequel moving). And both "Skyline" and "Let Me In" faltered when they hit screens later in the year, after doing the San Diego Comic-Con rounds.
However -- this year at least -- the tide is shifting. The New York Times reports that Warner Bros, Marvel, DreamWorks, Disney and The Weinstein Company will be no-shows this year, meaning that some major movies coming out in 2012 won't be given an early push. For those traveling across the country to attend SDCC, this year's lineup -- at least on the film front -- will have some huge, disappointing gaps.
Probably one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2012 is Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" but with the WB not booking tickets to San Diego, folks hoping for an exclusive look at the film will be out of luck. It also means that Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel," currently slated for a late 2012 release, will be absent marking two huge, heavyweight comic franchises missing from the biggest convention of the year. That said, Nolan has never played the Comic-Con game, so it's not too shocking he won't start now, but it still means two of the most mainstream comic heros of all time will stay off the convention floor. It also means no peeks at Bryan Singer's "Jack The Giant Killer" or Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows."
With Marvel unveiling the entire cast of "The Avengers" last year, it's somewhat shocking that the comic behemoth is as yet not guaranteed to be using San Diego to formally announce any new films in the works, with the Times saying they're currently "on the fence." But with the "The Avengers" only recent gearing up to shoot and racing to meet a release date next spring, we suppose priorities are shifted to getting the film completed. Disney meanwhile will also stay at home, keeping any peeks at "John Carter" to themselves for now (and/or for the front of "Cars 2"). And DreamWorks won't play ball either, though their geek slate in the near future is a bit dry other than "Real Steel" this fall.
So, who will be there? SDCC attendeese will still have lots to look forward to with "The Amazing Spider-Man," "Cowboys & Aliens," "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes," “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” "Shark Night 3D," “Immortals” and “The Raven” all expected to have a presence, and there are always surprises in store. With 20th Century Fox on hand, we could (but this is just guessing) see something from "Prometheus," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" or even some kind of announcement regarding the director of "The Wolverine." Meanwhile, Sony has a whole bunch of stuff they can also push including "21 Jump Street," "Men In Black III," "Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance," "Total Recall," "James Bond 23" and hell, even Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium" (though, considering he's as secretive as Nolan, we doubt it). And oh yeah, The Weinstein Company not showing is really not shocking as we figure "Cogan's Trade" and "The Wettest County In The World" aren't exactly the kind of films cosplay enthusiasts are pumped for.
So while some heavy hitters are staying home, any calls that San Diego Comic-Con is facing a crisis are a bit overstated. If anything, the absence of four major players may just mean studios are being more strategic. “It’s a red-letter opportunity, but you shouldn’t go simply because it sits there on the calendar,” said co-president of marketing for Universal Pictures, Michael Moses. “You have to be absolutely certain you have goods ready that can really make a difference for your film.” And speaking of Universal, they've got "47 Ronin," "Battleship" and "Ted" as potential Comic-Con entries.
And let's not forget last year's success stories. "The Green Hornet," "Red," "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "The Expendables" all went on to do excellent box office business (though yes, Sony did have to push extra hard for 'Hornet' to cross $220 million worldwide). So, it's a delicate game of knowing what to show and when, and also being aware of when to hold back. Marketing is a tricky, finely tuned art and if you're not prepared, the comic crowd can and will eat you alive (remember the boos last year for the M. Night Shyamalan-produced "Devil"?). So don't fear SDCC folks, there's still plenty of time for anything to happen and while some big movies won't be there, there will still be lots to take in. The San Diego Comic-Con runs from July 21-24.